Digger and assistance dog ordered to leave
AFTER being refused entry to Riverlink shopping centre four times in 14 months for having an assistance dog with him, former soldier Ricky Lawson has taken on the shopping centre for discrimination.
The Pine Mountain man suffers anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after his service, which included action in East Timor, and has a labradoodle assistance dog to help him deal with his fear of crowds.
Although the dog was a certified assistance dog under support group Young Diggers, Riverlink does not recognise the group's Dog Squad program, and turned Mr Lawson away.
Mr Lawson contacted Young Diggers who told him they approached Riverlink centre management, yet he was told to leave the shopping centre on two further visits.
Mr Lawson then approached accredited assistance dog training organisation Canine Helpers which he said certified his dog late last month.
Although the dog had the organisation's blue and yellow assistance dog jacket, a Riverlink security guard again asked Mr Lawson to leave because he could not produce an identification card from the group.
Mr Lawson said he had approached the group and was waiting for the certificate to be mailed to him.
Under Queensland's Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act, a person with a disability who relies on a certified assistance dog must have the same access rights as other members of the public and must not be segregated from other patrons or separated from their dog.
Individuals in control of a public place or public transport vehicle can be fined up to $11,000 and corporations can be fined up to $55,000 for not allowing access.
Riverlink marketing manager Robyn Bannister-Tyrrell would not comment on the complaint yesterday.
While guide dogs are trained to help the blind and hearing dogs help the hearing impaired, assistance dogs are trained to help people with physical, sensory or psychiatric disabilities.
Mr Lawson's wife Kim said the dog had changed their life.
"Ricky wouldn't leave the house, honestly that's what it was like before he had the dog," Mrs Lawson said. "These guys that have served, they come home and they put enough pressure on their families.
"To me, this has been a positive thing because Ricky gets to go out with the kids and do things like that now that we never did before. It has brought him out of his shell."
The family now travel to Mt Ommaney shopping centre.
Mr Lawson said he had made a complaint of discrimination to the state government.
"By refusing him access to the shops, it sets off Ricky and it impacts on the whole family," Mrs Lawson said.
"There's a lot of military people in the Ipswich area with Amberley so we really want to get the information out there on our rights."