Give our guide dogs respect, impatient Tube commuters told as trainer warns of ‘real danger’ posed by pushing and shoving

A London guide dog school has called on commuters to be more respectful to visually impaired people and their assistance animals.

The plea by charity Guide Dogs follows reports of people jumping over the animals to get on the Tube in rush hour. One Londoner, Amit Patel, filmed an encounter at London Bridge station where a commuter demanded he and his assistance dog get out of the way.

There are 312 guide dogs supporting the blind and visually impaired in the capital. The Standard visited the charity’s training school in Redbridge, where staff spend 20 months getting young dogs to be not just confident enough to recognise steps and kerbs but also to work in crowded stations, Tubes and buses.

Trainer Michelle Henman, 32, said: “It can be really intense for them at rush hour when there’s not a lot of space. People tread on them by accident and they get knocked, so they have to be happy, solid and confident dogs to go through the Tube at rush hour.”

She urged commuters to “be more aware”, adding: “People can sometimes be quite impatient, especially when a Tube turns up as they just want to get on the train. We’ve had incidents of people jumping over dogs to push past them and us — it’s really dangerous. We just ask people to wait 10 seconds. I know a lot of people are busy in London, but try to put yourself in the position of that visually impaired person and that dog — how would you feel if someone pushed passed you on an escalator?” 

To those Londoners who are more supportive, she said: “Don’t pat the dog — it distracts them from what they are doing and could be really dangerous.”

Trainer Pippa Carlson, 29, said: “People will just barge past trying to get to where they want to go, not really concentrating on who’s around them. They need to be more aware and just help us out — be more like human beings.”

Stamp out discrimination, TfL told after commuter berates blind man

At Liverpool Street station, electronic dance music producer Justin Cunningham, who is blind, described travelling at peak times with his four-year labrador-retriever cross, Nugget. A typical journey would be from his home in Stoke Newington to the West End. 

He said that on buses parents with buggies have told him to “move your dog please” or to “take another bus” because people are scared of Nugget. 

Mr Cunningham, 23, said: “I’m just an ordinary traveller trying to get from A to B, but sometimes you get treated with a lot of disrespect and that irks me a little bit… respect, a bit of courteousness and politeness can go a long way.” Guide Dogs breeds its puppies near Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. The average cost from breeding to retirement is £56,000.

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