What are the exceptions?

In the overwhelming majority of situations, assistance dog owners are allowed everywhere that the general public is admitted.

Guide dog and assistance dog owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010 (the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 in Northern Ireland). This legislation provides for disabled people to have the same rights to services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants as everyone else. This legislation is particularly clear in relation to taxis and private hire vehicles.

There are a few exceptions to this principle.

For instance, if an assistance dog owner wanted to visit a friend or relative in an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital, infection control policies would be reasonable grounds for not allowing access to an assistance dog. However, the hospital would still be obliged to accommodate the needs of an assistance dog owner. This could be by providing an area where the dog can be left safely under the care and supervision of hospital personnel and guiding you to and from the patient being visited.

Similarly, if you are in a shop or building society that does not have customer toilets, the fact that you have an assistance dog would not give you the right to make use of the staff toilets. In short, refusal of access does not always mean that the law has been broken but in our experience the majority of access refusals are unlawful and so are open to challenge. If you are in doubt, contact your assistance dog provider.

75% of assistance dog owners surveyed have experienced an access refusal.