The supermarket chain Sainsbury's, which prides itself on its customer-centred ethos, has apologised to a woman who brought her therapy dog into one of its stores.
By, 31 Dec 2019
When Bex Clifton visited Sainsbury’s in Basingstoke, Hampshire she took along her dog Maxxy. Maxxy is, according to Ms Clifton, a therapy dog.
Ms Clifton relies on Maxxy to assist her with an “invisible disability”, according to The Mirror.
However, staff at Sainsbury’s were less than sympathetic when they saw Clifton arrive at the shop with her Jack Russell crossbreed in tow.
After Clifton had been shopping for 25 minutes she was asked by shop staff to leave on the basis that the dog was “not real”.
Clifton told The Mirror she felt humiliated by the request.
“It made me feel discriminated against,” Clifton said. "I've got a disability and them shouting at me made me feel discriminated. The second time my daughter was with me and she was in tears.”
Gesture of goodwill
Sainsbury’s later apologised to Clifton. According to The Mirror, a spokesperson for the shop said, “We have apologised to Rebecca for her experience and provided her with a gesture of goodwill so that we can welcome her back into store with Maxxy.”
Therapy dog vs. assistance dog
Maxxy’s status as a therapy dog may not be in doubt but there is a legal distinction between a therapy dog - used to benefit someone therapeutically - and an assistance dog, used to benefit someone with a physical disability.
Most assistance dogs are trained to perform essential physical tasks for people with a life-limiting challenge, such as blindness. Assistance dogs are usually qualified following extensive training at one of the UK’s charities. This type of dog is also registered as a member of Assistance Dogs UK.
According to the Society for Companion Animal Studies, “An assistance dog is legally permitted to accompany its client, owner, or partner, at all times and in all places, within the United Kingdom. A therapy dog does not have these same legal privileges.”