Transport for London raises assistance dog owners' rightsBy Marianne Lampon -
Have you ever been refused a seat in a taxi because you have an assistance dog? Have you ever been charged more in a private hire vehicle for having an assistance dog with you? Has your dog been asked to sit in a separate section of the vehicle to you? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you have been denied your rights as a person travelling with an assistance dog.
The good news is that Transport for London launched a campaign back in February to raise awareness and to educate both passengers and drivers of the rights of assistance dog owners when travelling in taxis or private hire vehicles in London.
The four key points that TfL are aiming to make people aware of are stated on their website:
1. Taxi and private hire drivers can't refuse a passenger because they have an assistance dog
2. Passengers can't be charged more for a taxi or private hire journey because they have an assistance dog
3. Assistance dogs must be seated with their owners at all times
4. It's illegal to refuse to carry a passenger with an assistance dog. Drivers doing so could risk losing their licence or face a fine “
But it’s not just the provision of information that TfL are aiming for with the campaign. TfL have also made it easier for customers to report incidents, allowing them to submit detailed facts about their journey through their website: https://tfl.gov.uk/forms/12396.aspx . A phone number has also been set up for passengers wishing to talk to someone about an incident. What’s great is that TfL have ensured that each complaint will be fully investigated and thus encourages passengers to report any incidents they may have been faced with.
Rob Harris, Engagement Manager for Guide Dogs London, has said to TfL:
"Being denied access to a taxi or private hire vehicle is not just illegal, but can knock the confidence of our guide dog owners and be deeply upsetting. With TfL's fantastic campaign, we can now make sure that message gets out to every single licensed driver so that there is no excuse and that guide dog owners are entitled to the same freedom of movement as everyone else."
Within the last year alone, TfL has prosecuted three operators and five drivers for refusing to allow assistance dogs into their vehicles. A further eight prosecutions are pending and eight other cases are being investigated. It looks like the crackdown has only just begun and will hopefully have lasting effects for those travelling in London with assistance dogs.
Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, take a look at the various links below for more information:
- A handy guide to print out and keep with you whilst travelling with an assistance dog in London by taxi, minicab or chauffeur which outlines your rights and various TfL contact details should you come into difficulty on your travels: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/assistance-dogs-know-your-rights.pdf
- A guide to assistance dogs for private hire drivers including key facts and myth busters: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/new-dogs-assistance-leaflet.pdf
- A quick-guide for drivers on the different kinds of assistance dogs from Guide Dogs to Medical Detection Dogs: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/new-assistance-dogs-ad.pdf