Museum bans trainee guide dog claiming it will eat the exhibits

Museum staff turn a seven-month-old guide dog puppy away over fears he might EAT the exhibits

  • Peter and Rhona Bratt took Mark the trainee guide dog on a trip to Oxford 
  • The plan was to get the seven-month-old dog used to walking around a museum
  • A member of staff said Mark was not welcome as he might ‘eat the exhibits’ 
  • Oxford University Museum has since changed its rules over trainee guide dogs

A guide dog was turned away from entering a museum after staff said he might eat the exhibits.

Seven-month-old black Labrador and Golden Retriever cross, Mark, is a guide puppy in training.

He goes everywhere with his owners Peter and Rhona Bratt, to get him used to the wide range of situations he will face as a guide dog.

Mark the Labrador and Golden Retriever Cross who is in training to be a guide dog was turned away from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History  with his owners Peter and Rhona Bratt after staff claimed the seven-month-old pup would ‘eat the exhibits’

Guide dogs under training have to experience the types of places they will be expected to go when they are eventually handed over to their new owner

But when the couple tried to take him Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History a manager turned them away – saying that Mark ‘might eat the exhibits’.

Mr Bratt, 71, from West Yorkshire, who has trained 11 guide dogs over the last 12 years, said the museum’s excuse sounded ‘ridiculous’.

He said: ‘We stayed and argued the case because it is so unusual to be refused.

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‘But the front of house manager insisted he couldn’t come in as ‘he might eat the exhibits’, which sounded ridiculous and an answer made up on the spot.’

Mr Bratt, a former BBC producer, added that it is only the third time he has ever been refused entry somewhere with Mark.

He said: ‘There’s no legal requirement for businesses to let ‘in training’ dogs in as we are not disabled and so it doesn’t break equality law.

The group training the guide dog were told they were not allowed to enter the building

The museum later apologised for turning the guide dog away and said they were changing their policy

‘But most places understand it’s only logical that guide dogs need to learn and this is the best way to do it.’

Following the incident being highlighted on social media, the university museum says it will now allow guide dog puppies in the future.

And they now say that the policy had actually been in place because animals ‘carry pests’ which can ‘damage the organic material’ in displays.

Mr Bratt welcomed the museum’s subsequent change of policy but said it highlighted the importance of challenging the reasoning behind refusal.

He said: ‘It’s National Guide Dogs Awareness Week and I think what happened is a timely reminder of the training that goes into producing guide dogs who can handle any situation.’

Mr and Mrs Bratt were visiting their close friend Cas Lester, a well-known children’s author and former CBBC children’s show creator – who said she found the refusal ‘shocking’.

Ms Lester said: ‘Their excuse that the dogs ‘might eat the exhibits’ was nonsense.

‘Supermarkets, restaurants and cafes don’t assume the dogs will ‘eat the food’, libraries don’t think the dogs might ‘eat the books’, trains, buses and taxis aren’t worried the dogs will ‘eat the seat’.

‘All these venues appreciate this is the way guide dog puppies are trained and know they can rely on the people in charge of the puppies to control them.’

Clive Wood, engagement officer for Guide Dogs, said volunteers like Mr and Mrs Bratt, play a ‘vital part’ in the journey of a puppy to become a ‘life-changing’ guide dog for a blind or partially sighted person.

He added: ‘Although services providers are not required to allow access to guide dog puppies in training, we do ask for their support and understanding in this important element of the training process.’

A spokesman for the museum said it had been consulting with the national charity to update its policy on admitting assistance dogs in training.

He added: ‘As this work isn’t quite complete, our front of house staff adopted the current policy, which is that the museum does not admit dogs other than working assistance dogs.

‘This is because animals carry pests which can damage the organic material of many displays in the museum.

‘However, following the discussion on Saturday, when a visitor asked to bring in a Guide Dog puppy in training, the museum’s policy will be to admit assistance dogs in training from now on.’

He continued: ‘Through these and other initiatives we are committed to improving the experience of blind and partially-sighted visitors.

‘We recognise that the training of assistance dogs is an important part of that process.’

The museum was one of five partners in RNIB’s Sensing Culture project to improve access to heritage for blind and partially sighted people.

It recently hosted Guide Dogs’ regional meeting and held a Meet the Guide Dog day. 

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