Although it is safe and hygienic practice to prohibit animals or pets in venues providing food, what about people with physical disabilities that require them to have a guide dog, in assisting them with day-to-day movements? There have recently been a few incidents that have made headlines in the media, about customers who have been discriminated against bringing guide dogs into venues. As a responsible Food Safety Supervisor, you need to be aware of the following obligations.
When assessing whether a customer’s dog is a pet or a trained guide dog: if the animal is wearing a harness, it means that it is working and assisting a person who is blind or has impaired vision, to move around safely and independently.
Refusing customers who need a guide dog to access areas such as indoor or outdoor café and restaurant environments is illegal, and can result in fines for the business owner.
Legislation regarding customers who require guide dog assistance in businesses is promulgated under the following Acts and codes:
Disability Discrimination Act 1992
Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW)
Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code
Working guide dogs and their users are allowed entry to any public area used by customers, such as:
Indoor or outdoor dining areas of a café or restaurant,
Servery areas of kiosks, fast food outlets, etc.
Guide dogs are not allowed to enter areas that are off limits to the general public, such as kitchens, food preparation areas and food storage areas.