Disabled couple furious after being ‘asked to leave theme park due to guide dog’
A disabled couple claim they were asked to leave a theme park because of their guide dog – and say they were left “furious” by the experience.
Paul and Kaylie Newbury, from Grays, Essex, alleged they were asked to leave Adventure Island because their service animal wasn’t wearing a muzzle.
The couple claimed the incident was an example of discrimination against disabled people and said they will be “holding Adventure Island to account”.
However, when approached about the incident, which allegedly happened on Sunday, August 15, Adventure Island’s owner told Essex Live he “hadn’t got a clue” about it – but added it was possible staff had got it wrong.
Paul, a 36-year-old deaf man, said he went to the Southend-on-Sea attraction for a nice day out with his blind wife Kaylie, her guide dog Sarah, two children and family friends.
But the trouble allegedly started as soon as they arrived at the park, when security guards reportedly stopped Paul and his family at the main entrance.
Paul said the security guards were not sure if Kaylie’s guide dog, Sarah, was allowed into the park.
After eventually being let in, Paul said his experience only got worse later on, as security were “eye-balling” the family as they walked round the park.
He 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 checked Adventure Island’s accessibility policy and “became concerned”, according to Paul.
He was told that all dogs at the park must wear a muzzle, however Sarah, a Labrador, has never worn a muzzle and Paul said this 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 for the remainder of the day, but Paul said the experience has been 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 went on: “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 going back to the park.
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.”
In its accessibility policy, Adventure Island clarifies that only registered medical assistance dogs are allowed in Adventure Island and proof is required.
Dogs are also required to 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 boss 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.”