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Pub refuses disabled teen entry with assistance dog

Chico on a lead
Chico on a lead Image credit:

A disabled teenager has been turned away from his local Weatherspoon’s pub after being told he was not allowed to take his assistance dog on the premises.

River Cartledge – who has autism, fibromyalgia and arthritis – was told by the manager of The Five Swans in Newcastle he was not welcome in the bar with his Shih Tzo, Chico because she is not a guide dog.

The 19-year-old told the manager she was breaking the Equality Act which states pubs cannot refuse entry to disabled people who need assistance dogs.

After being turned away Cartledge said he suffered a ‘severe meltdown and panic attack'.

He told Mail Online: 'Assistance dog handlers such as myself get denied in public places more often than it’s talked about, and it always makes us feel like this, and like we’re the ones causing problems for ourselves by needing a dog, when in reality it’s the ableism and ignorance of other people, not the disabled person.'

Cartledge was refused entry to The Five Swans on Saturday night, May 7, with his boyfriend Sean Wilson, 21, and a group of friends intending to enjoy a night out.

'Their issue, was the fact he was an assistance dog, and not a guide dog,' he explained. 'I was straight up told that they only allowed Seeing Eye dogs and they didn’t allow assistance dogs, because of their “policy”. 

According to the Weatherspoons’ website the pub chain’s policy only permits registered assistance and guide dogs on its premises.

After being denied entry Cartledge and Wilson asked to speak to a manager who they told 'their policy doesn’t override the law, to be told that it does, which is absurdly untrue.’

'I quoted the Equality Act 2010, and the guide for all businesses, both of which any business that’s open to the public like any Wetherspoons is, have to abide by legally, regardless of any “policy” they may have in place.,’ Cartledge said.

'It was absolutely hurtful, really humiliating and dehumanising and embracing standing there. 

'I have never had an experience like this and it caused me to have a medical episode.' 

The manager told him that ‘if it is not a guide dog' then it's 'company policy' not to admit someone into the pub, before asking him to leave the premises.

Wetherspoons' policy states: 'We do allow registered assistance dogs.

'In these circumstances, and to avoid any confusion or unnecessary upset, ensure that your dog is wearing its recognisable leash/collar or harness.

'It would also be helpful if you could bring along suitable documentation to explain your dog’s purpose.'

A spokesperson for Assistance Dog UK said: It is not a legal requirement for Assistance Dog users to provide ID or "proof" of training but all ADUK members issue the people and dog partnerships they work with this information in the form of an ADUK Identification Booklet.' 

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: 'It was an error not to let the [man] in with her assistance dog.

'It was a genuine error and we apologise wholeheartedly.

'We can understand the fact the [man] would have been upset and frustrated by the situation.

'Assistance dogs are allowed into Wetherspoon pubs and we will reiterate this to staff at the pub and the company's pubs in general.

'The [man] is more than welcome to visit the pub with her dog.'

River Cartledge had the ID with him but claims he did not have the ability to show it while talking with Wetherspoons staff.