Cabbie who refused guide dog has licence suspended

Thelma the guide dog belongs to Cheryl Johnson of Preston

Thelma the guide dog belongs to Cheryl Johnson of Preston

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A cabbie who refused to take a fare for a seriously ill guide dog user and her assistance animal has had his taxi licence suspended for four weeks.

Licensing chiefs at Preston Council made the decision after Zabar Hussain, 44, became the first cabbie in Lancashire to be convicted under the Equality Act.

Cheryl Johnson with Guide Dog Thelma

Cheryl Johnson with Guide Dog Thelma

Last month, he admitted a charge of refusing to take a fare for a passenger with an assistance dog, and was ordered to pay a £55 fine, a £20 victim surcharge and £250 costs.

A decision to further punish the father-of-six, from Blackburn, was made at a meeting at Preston Town Hall.

Cheryl Johnson, 45, from Walton Avenue in Penwortham, and her guide dog Thelma needed help to get home with their Christmas shopping in December - but were refused when Hussain spotted Thelma.

The mum-of-one says the same cabbie gave her a lift home with Thelma just three weeks earlier and had even put a towel down in his footwell for the animal.

Hussain claimed in court he came out in a rash when confronted with dogs.

Despite the circumstances Cheryl, a former teaching assistant who is blind in one eye and has 25 per cent vision in her other, insisted to council chiefs she did not want the cabbie to lose his licence.

Today senior licensing officer Dave Lowe said: “We feel this is a fair outcome to mark the circumstances.”

The council has had around three such complaints in the last six months.

The first person did not wish to pursue the case, and the second, which involved a phone operator saying the firm did not take dogs, led to a taxi operator given a warning.

The authority has a scheme to protect drivers in certain scenarios such as having 
dog allergies as drivers can apply for an exemption 
certificate.