A taxi driver has been fined £150 for refusing to take a blind woman and her guide dog – because he didn’t want to get FUR in his car.
“Aggressive” Nadim Afzali left mum-of-one Laura Bonehill shaking and in tears after driving away from her and her perfectly-trained pup, Falcon.
Laura, 29, had requested a driver to take her and the six-year-old Golden Retriever home after a shopping trip.
By law, taxis – as well as buses and trains – must accept guide dogs unless they have a medical certificate proving that they are allergic to dogs.
But when Alpha Cars drive Afzali arrived, he flat out refused to carry the dog – shouting “no dog, no dog” and banging his hands on the steering wheel.
When Laura told him the law and tried to get in the car, Afzali put his foot on the pedal and attempted to speed off, she said.
Laura, of Ruislip, who has been blind since the age of seven, said: “I phoned Alpha Cars and said I needed a taxi and that I was with Falcon. They said, ‘Yes, that’s OK’.
“When the taxi turned up I walked to get in and the driver started shouting ‘no dog, no dog’.
“I said, ‘It’s a guide dog, you have to take me by law’.
“He had limited English but he said it was the size of the dog that was the issue and that he was too big – even though he is a normal Golden Retriever.
“At this point I had my left leg in the car and the dog was sitting on the kerb out of the way.
“The driver was banging his hands on the steering wheel, saying ‘no dog, no dog’.
“Then he started to drive off and I jumped out quickly but I left the door open so he had to stop and get out.”
As he did so, Laura, who has been blind since the age of seven, called the company office and was told that the driver was required to take her and Falcon.
She then passed him the phone, and heard him moaning to his boss that he didn’t want to get fur in his car before begrudgingly agreeing to take her.
After hanging up the phone Laura stepped back into the taxi but, as she did so, the taxi driver started aggressively shouting “no dog” again.
He then sped away, leaving Laura crying and shaking and a distressed Falcon whimpering on the pavement of Ruislip high street, west London.
After the incident in November last year, the case went to court and Afzali, pleaded guilty to refusing a guide dog at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday.
He was ordered to pay costs and compensation but fined just £150 – a punishment Laura, and UK guide dog charities, think is too light.
Laura, who ended up being picked up by her dad, said: “I was very very shaken up afterwards.
“This has happened to me before, but never this bad. I still go out in taxis, but I always use people who I know.
“It is stressful enough going out as a blind person with a guide dog anyway without having to deal with the ignorance of the the general public.
“It is worrying to think that this happens to other people who may not have as much confidence to deal with it.”
Transport for London said it is “unacceptable” for private hire operators and taxi drivers to refuse assistance dogs.
Steve Burton, Director of Enforcement and On-street Operations, said: “When these cases are brought to our attention, we will take immediate steps to investigate and prosecute where appropriate.
“We hope this successful prosecution brings some comfort to the victim of this discriminatory act.
“We recently launched a campaign, in partnership with assistance dogs charities, to remind private hire drivers and operators of their legal obligations.”
In the last 12 months, TfL have successfully prosecuted ten drivers, three operators and one company director for refusing to take assistance dogs.
A Guide Dogs spokesperson said: “We hear about such refusals with shocking regularity and for a variety of reasons.
“Some drivers say they don’t know the law, others are concerned about allergies and some are worried that the dog will shed hairs.
“We’re also disappointed that the fine was only £150, which we don’t feel reflects the distress access refusals can cause. Guide Dogs is campaigning to change this.”
Afzali was ordered to pay costs totalling £895, including £150 in compensation to the victim.
Alpha Cars failed to respond to requests for comment.