Paul and Kaylie Newbury, from Grays, Essex, allege they were asked to leave an UK theme park because their guide dog wasn’t wearing a muzzle.
The couple claimed the incident was discriminationary against people with disabilities and said they will be “holding Adventure Island to account,” reported the Mirror.
However, Adventure Island’s owner told Essex Live that he “hadn’t got a clue” about the alleged August 15 incident – but added it was possible staff had erred in their actions.
Paul, a 36-year-old deaf man, said he went to the theme park with his blind wife Kaylie, her guide dog Sarah, two children and family friends.
When they first arrived, security guards reportedly stopped Paul and his family at the main entrance, stating they weren’t sure if Kaylie’s guide dog, Sarah, was permitted in the park. After eventually being allowed in, Paul said his experience grew increasing worse, as security were “eye-balling” the family as they walked around the park.
Paul said, “They were all talking on their radios and twice we were approached by security and asked: ‘Is that actually a guide dog? Why do you need it?’
“I became furious. I went over to customer services and asked them: ‘Please can you tell your security to back off, because we’re here for the children and the security keep coming over and questioning us.’
“We felt targeted and discriminated against.”
The customer services staff member then reviewed Adventure Island’s accessibility policy and “became concerned,” Paul said.
He was told that all dogs in the park must be muzzled, however Sarah, a Labrador, has never worn a muzzle, which, according to Paul, is common for guide dogs. Paul and his family were then allegedly asked to leave Adventure Island, something he said made him “furious.”
“I was shocked,” Paul said.
“This was about half past 3 and we’d gone in at 11, so there had been a long time when it was fine. I stood my ground and I refused.
“I told them you can call the police or security to remove me but I’m not leaving.
“I was furious about how I’d been treated and their unclear accessibility policy.”
The family were allowed to stay, but Paul said the experience was extremely traumatic and he is “not letting this go.” Paul says he wants Adventure Island to review its accessibility policy as a result of the incident.
He continued, “There was no respect for me or my family and especially no understanding for those with a disability.
“I’m full of rage and I’m struggling to process how to respond to the situation which was caused by their actions. I’m not letting this go and they will be held to account.”
After the family’s “devastating” experience, Kaylie says she won’t be returning to Adventure Island.
She said, “It made me feel very upset and has made me think I don’t want to come back and spend money.
“They’re not allowing me to be me. It was devastating really. It’s made me very nervous and like I don’t want to go.
“If I could avoid it I would, but on the other side I have got rights just as much as everyone else to be there.”
The theme park’s accessibility policy states that only registered medical assistance dogs are permitted in Adventure Island and proof is required.
It is also mandatory that dogs wear a harness and coat, as well as a muzzle.
Under the Equality Act, assistance dog owners have the right to enter most services, premises and vehicles with their canine.
Adventure Island’s owner Philip Milller, MBE, said, “I haven’t a clue to what he is talking about, we had a guide dog in with a family who stayed for hours enjoying our facilities.
“We are strict on not letting dogs in due to the worry of flashing lights and lots of noise with young children’s excitement sending them out of control.
“We have been used for a TV advert showing the safe use of well-trained medical dogs.
“However on occasion we have had folks trying to pass off family pets as such.
“You cannot be too careful when it comes to the safety of our younger customers.
“Unfortunately sometimes we get it wrong. Maybe this is what happened.”