Tesco staff reduce blind woman to tears telling her to 'get guide dog out'

Guide dogs are exempt from rules banning dogs under UK Equality Act 2010

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The Independent Online

A blind woman burst into tears outside a Tesco supermarket after she had been illegally told off and "banned" from the store for taking in her guide dog.

Maya Makri was buying groceries with a friend in the Belsize Road branch, north London, on Monday when a cashier shouted over to her “pets are not allowed”.

Staff refused to acknowledge that Jemma the black Labrador was not just a pet, despite wearing a fluorescent high-viz jacket and harness labelled “guide dog”, Ms Makri said.

The student was defended by her friend and other customers but two additional cashiers are said to have joined in to agree that she would be banned from the store in future.

Ms Makri, 39, said to the Evening Standard: “I repeatedly said that I was registered blind and that this was a trained assistance dog, to no avail. “Various customers tried to back me up, but we were shouted down. I burst into tears outside the store in sheer frustration.

“A woman followed me all the way to South Hampstead station, just to say how terribly upset she was about what she had just witnessed and that this had to be challenged.”

It is against the law to refuse access to a guide dog as they are a mobility aid and are exempt from policies banning dogs under the UK Equality Act 2010.

A Tesco spokesman said: "This clearly should never have happened and we will contact Ms Makri directly to apologise.

“We do allow guide dogs in stores and have reminded colleagues of that. We also offer customers with guide dogs help with their shopping, if they would like assistance.”

More than 4,700 people rely on guide dogs nationwide for their everyday activities and cases of discrimination can be taken to the civil court with guidance from The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Tesco customer services reportedly contacted Ms Makri to offer her a £20 voucher, however no one from the Swiss Cottage store had got in touch and she is still awaiting a reply from the company's equality department.

Ms Makri added on Twitter: "To clarify, I blame @Tesco, a multinational worth billions for not putting proper training in place, not the staff that are on minimum wage"

Jemma has been working for the Masters student of Central School of Speech and Drama for six years.

Visit www.guidedogs.org.uk for more information.