Cabbie in strife for ejecting seeing-eye dog

A Lake Heights man has lodged a complaint with Wollongong Radio Cabs, claiming a driver refused to let him in the cab because of his seeing-eye dog.

Chris Paull and golden retriever Hero are typically welcomed with open arms around Berkeley and Warrawong, where Mr Paull does his shopping and visits the chemist.

But a run-in with a taxi driver at Berkeley last week has left Mr Paull shaken and upset.

He claims he and Hero were the victims of discrimination after they were refused transport last week by a cab driver, who claimed to be allergic to dogs.

Hero, who is trained to sit in the front passenger footwell between Mr Paull's feet, had just stepped into the car when the driver told the Lake Heights man his dog was not allowed in the vehicle.

"I said 'You can't refuse him, he's a registered seeing-eye dog, I've got his registration card here'," he said.

"He said 'No I'm allergic to dogs, catch another cab'."

Mr Paull was so incensed by the encounter he contacted Vision Australia and lodged a complaint with Wollongong Radio Cabs.

"He's never been refused anywhere, nowhere has the dog ever been challenged because he's in a harness, they can see he's a seeing-eye dog," he said.

"He didn't know what was going on, why he had to get out of the car, he was just looking up at me as if to say 'Why aren't we going home?'."

Mr Paull, who is blind in his right eye and has about 3 per cent vision in his left, gained a new lease on life this year when he was teamed up with two-year-old Hero.

"He's changed my life completely," he said.

"Without him I can't get around; he's my eyes, he won't put me in danger."

Vision Australia Wollongong manager Helen Dooley said clients typically reported receiving good service from the taxi company and this appeared to be an isolated incident in the region.

"They are really very good, most of the drivers," she said.

A NSW Taxi Council spokeswoman said under the Passenger Transport Act a driver could only refuse to transport a person on one of two conditions; either the driver believes they are at risk of physical harm, or they do not believe the passenger can afford the fare, in which case they can ask to see proof of funds.

She said an allergy was not an acceptable reason.

The spokeswoman said complaints of discrimination against taxis were extremely uncommon.

"It's rare, but it's a very, very serious matter and the driver will be held accountable," she said.

Wollongong Radio Cabs has launched an investigation into the matter.

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