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Blind woman and dog ejected from bakery

Flagstaff Team

Sour taste… Blind woman Lisa Reid and her guide dog Romy were ordered out of a bakery at Hauraki Corner, leaving Reid in tears.

A spontaneous decision to buy a pie for dinner ended with a legally blind Bayswater woman in tears when she and her guide dog were shooed out of a Hauraki bakery.

“I was balling my eyes out,” Lisa Reid told the Flagstaff after the incident on Tuesday last week. “No one deserves to feel like that.”

With her two-year-old guide dog Romy leading the way, Reid had been shopping at the Countdown supermarket in the same block, when she decided to pick up a pie from the Holiday Bakery.

She entered the bakery from the rear car park. When she emerged from the passage into the main shop, Reid says she was met with: “Go outside, go outside with your dog.”

Reid spoke up, saying she could not see and was legally able to have her dog with her. She says this was met with, “Yes, yes, just leave”.

Reid exited, but not before saying she would be in a touch with a letter outlining her rights. “It’s breaking the law, it’s against the Human Rights Act,” she says.

It was also hurtful and meant her day was “crap” afterwards. “You never get used to it,” says Reid of the pain such incidents cause. “I couldn’t have a pie for dinner – because I’m blind.”

The couple in the bakery, who declined to give their names to the Flagstaff, say they did ask Reid to take her dog away from the counter. They also replied that they knew guide dogs were allowed in shops. A sign on the bakery wall says: “No dogs (except guide dogs)”.

“I knew, I understand,” the woman said. “But I’m not happy to keep the dog.”

She said they had offered for the man to hold the dog in the passage, while Reid was at the counter. Reid says she did not hear this.

When the Flagstaff asked why the couple would not allow the dog to be with Reid at the counter, as was her right, they were reluctant to explain the reasoning. They mentioned cleaning and that Reid had been focusing her attention on the dog, rather than food selection.

After leaving the store, an upset Reid rang Blind Low Vision NZ’s guide-dog services for advice, before heading home.

The organisation confirmed to the Flagstaff that it had written a letter to the Holiday Bakery last Thursday. It would follow up with a call to ensure the bakery owners were clear on their legal obligations under both the Human Rights Act and the Dog Control Act, which made provision for guide dogs.

Guide-dog operations manager Wendy Mellberg-Haecker said educating retailers was its main aim with such interactions.

“We have to be aware there are many different cultures here in New Zealand and in some cultures dogs are seen differently.”

But the job was to ensure that people understood what New Zealand law required.

To ask someone to separate from their dog was not lawful, she said. “You wouldn’t take a cane away from a blind person and a dog is the same thing.” Such cases were upsetting for the person concerned, who should expect to be treated fairly and equally.

Reid says she encountered a similar poor reception at the same bakery more than a decade ago, but that her decision to visit this time was unrelated to that. She says she ventured in on the spur of the moment and that she has no idea if the store was still under the same ownership. “I thought after 13 years it would be all good.”

The previous time that she was asked to leave she put it down to ignorance, with staff not understanding the law. She did not complain publicly about her treatment then, but this time she says she felt the attitude she encountered was very condescending.

“It’s a personal thing for me in terms of wanting to follow this through,” she says. “For me as a person, and also for standing up for people with differences everywhere.”

The couple confirmed to the Flagstaff they had been in the bakery for around 20 years.

They said they had seen Reid browsing the store in the past couple of years. She says she has not been there with a guide dog in recent years and cannot remember visiting. The couple told the Flagstaff they had to get on with their work, adding: “The lady can come back now”

Reid says she would not want to. The mother of a 19-year-old university student, who is herself studying psychology at AUT, says she does not want to be seen as a victim and neither should she have to be a crusader, but bad attitudes need to change.

Reid lost her sight due to a brain tumour at the age of 11. She has no vision from her right eye, while that from her left eye is comparable to “looking down a straw”.

Generally, she is treated well, she says, singling out the bakery’s near neighbour in the Hauraki shopping strip, the Village Butcher, as being particularly welcoming to her and Romy.

Food smells appeal to the thoroughly trained dog, her third from Guide Dog Services, making Reid joke in retrospect that being taken out of the bakery probably left Romy just as upset as her, thinking: “Mum, where’s the pie?”

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