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Carvery 'discriminated' against disabled diners with aid dogs.

Byline: Agency reporter

AVILLAGE pub "indirectly discriminated" against disabled customers by banning assistance dogs from its carvery, a judge has ruled.

The judge at Caernarfon County Court also found that there had been a failure to make a "reasonable adjustment" under the Equality Act.

Burnadette Clutton, 54, of Llanfairfechan, Conwy, and Edward Williams, 41, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, sought PS7,000 damages each. District judge Merfyn Edmund Jones-Evans awarded them PS1,000 each but the Pen-y-Bryn Group must also pay PS900 costs after fighting the claim.

The diners had visited the Village Inn at Llanfairfechan for a Sunday meal in April last year with their Labrador assistance dogs.

Barrister Martin Mensah, for the family-run business, which had denied any disability discrimination, said: "There was no clear unambiguous advice about what the defendants should do."

He argued against awarding damages. Mr Mensah said: "They thought they acted to minimise the hygiene risk."

The publicans didn't have a great understanding of the nuances of the Equality Act. They got the balance wrong in this case.

Belinda Williams, 46, carer for her husband, argued that assistance dogs posed less of a hygiene risk than human beings.

Mrs Williams said: "We gave them plenty of time to have an apology from them. They didn't want to know."

Mr Williams maintained that what happened "knocked my confidence in doing stuff."

Ruling in favour of the disabled claimants, the judge said: "I think the defendants didn't act intentionally."

The judge said feelings may have been "running high" in the community about the case. But he urged villagers to "move on and respect this decision".

At an earlier hearing, Mr Mensah said the publicans' case was that the pub had been very busy and they had the legitimate aim of maintaining food hygiene.

Mr Mensah said customers could eat anywhere else in the premises when they had an assistance dog, staff would have helped the diners and minded the animals. But dogs passing uncovered food could pose a hygiene risk. Hair in carvery food would be unacceptable.

Counsel said: "The defendants have maintained 'you can sit anywhere but the carvery area'. It's the epitome of a reasonable adjustment. The claims are misconceived and must fail."

But Mrs Williams said: "All we wanted was to have a nice Sunday dinner in the Village Inn, in the conservatory where there are proper tables to sit at. This table was booked. You don't need to let people know you are going to bring an assistance dog."

Burnadette Clutton, who has a yellow Labrador called Maisy to help her because of various health problems, said: "I want to be as independent as I can. If I fancy a Sunday dinner at the local pub why can't I have it? Why can't I pick my own roast potatoes. I don't want to be treated differently."

Maisy has been trained to perform a range of tasks such as picking up items that may be dropped, fetching medication and turning over the exnurse in bed. The Williamses, involved with the charity Dog AID, had a black Labrador assistance dog at the time of the visit but now have Cadi, a trainee fox red Labrador, to help with his health issues. Cadi recognises when there are breathing problems.

Widowed landlady Roberta Roberts had told the court there would be meat and vegetables on the carvery. "I don't think it's good for dogs to be near food," she said. "I wouldn't discriminate against anyone."

Outside court Mrs Williams said their treatment had been "totally unacceptable."

She said: "Burnadette and Edward have had to fight this case on their own but wanted to make a stand not just for themselves.

"I hope it draws a line in the sand." Burnadette Clutton added: "We deserve to live a normal life Just because we rely on a dog to help us, we still deserve to be treated with dignity."

A spokeswoman for the pub said the court's decision was "disgusting" but that there would be no appeal.

"We have had enough," she said.


Burnadette Clutton with her Labrador assistance dog Maisy
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 7, 2017
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