Service dog denied

AWARNESS NEEDED: Laurie Mann with service dog Indy. Mr Mann is fighting for more awareness around service dogs and disability access. Photo: Elisabeth Champion

Elisabeth Champion

A LOCAL disability advocate is calling for more awareness for disability access in Mount Gambier, after being denied service from a local restaurant due to his service dog.

Laurie Mann said he was accompanied by his service dog Indy when he attempted to visit a Mount Gambier restaurant with his family earlier this month, and was shocked when he was told he could not enter with his dog.

Under South Australian laws, service dogs are entitled to enter restaurants, shopping centres, national parks and other places where dogs are banned, when accompanied by a disabled person.

Mr Mann told The Border Watch that he was asked to take Indy out, and that even when he had explained the rules around service animals to the owners, he was only offered seating in a private room away from other customers.

He said he was “disgusted” by the way he was treated.

He said most businesses in the region had been accepting of Indy, but that more awareness was needed around service animals and accessibility.

“Over all, we have had positive experiences – we haven’t had any other pub or clubs kick me out because of Indy – but we need to raise some awareness around the rules around service animals,” he said.

Mr Mann said he has since spoken to the restaurant and the council about the incident.

He said while most local restaurants were accommodating of assistance animals, he was disappointed that many local businesses were inaccessible to those with mobility issues, and local roads and footpaths were difficult to navigate.

“Our biggest issue is the older buildings – many have no disabled access,” he said.

“Accessibility within the council region needs a proper review, and building owners and the council need to come on board.

“The buildings aren’t equipped to deal with disabled people – some of the bigger clubs are, but most of them aren’t.

“Disabled parking is also a problem.

“There is no thought of the disability people and accessibility, even though there are a lot more people with scooters and wheelchairs around now.”

Mr Mann, who often uses a walking frame and a motorised scooter, said he hoped businesses would become more aware of the needs of those with disabilities in the region.