TODAY |

Blind Wellington man kicked off bus for his poodle guide dog

A blind Wellington man was denied access when trying to board a bus with his guide dog, despite showing the dog's passport and identification.

George Taggart, his partner Mary and guide dog Gus, a poodle. Source: Antonio Lim / Supplied

Guide dogs, trained by Blind-Low Vision NZ, are legally allowed on public transport, as well as public places including hospitals, shops and restaurants. 

But when George Taggart tried to board a bus with his poodle Gus, he was refused.

He even showed the bus driver Gus' guide dog passport and identification, but was still denied access.

Blind-Low Vision NZ chief executive John Mulka says the case highlights accessibility issues for blind and low vision Kiwis.

"It’s important we use these opportunities to raise awareness about the access rights of people who use guide dogs, to travel independently and confidently, and to get where they need to go," he says.

While most of the organisation's trained dogs are labradors, they also breed standard poodles, Mulka says.

The poodles are more suitable for handlers or family members who are allergic to dog hair.

“While it might be unusual for the public to see a poodle as a guide dog, when George showed his ID card it should have cleared up the confusion," Mulka says.

"Blind Low Vision NZ guide dog breeds are chosen for their intelligence and steady, friendly nature."

Mulka says he's reached out to Metlink, which operates buses in Wellington, and the Wellington City Council to "offer support and advise on best practice".

"Blind Low Vision NZ works directly with transport providers and others in the private and public sector to train and educate on how to best serve blind, deafblind and low vision travellers, customers and staff," he says.

Blind Low Vision NZ breeds and trains guide dogs, who have legal access to accompany their handlers under the Humans Rights Act and Dog Control Act.

The trained dogs are recognisable by their working harness, with their own ID card and an identification medallion. 

If people are refused despite showing their ID, Blind Low Vision NZ says handlers are within their rights to call the police. People are recommended to make a formal complaint if the issue persists.

Metlink has been contacted by 1 NEWS for comment.