The Business Disability Forum has published a series of short guides offering advice to retailers on how to welcome disabled customers with assistance and support animals.

The ‘Guide dogs, assistance animals and emotional support animals’ guide explains the different types of animals that some disabled people rely on in their daily lives. The guides also cover what businesses need to consider when deciding whether to allow customers to bring in different animals and how to anticipate and meet the needs of disabled customers with animals.

One in four people in the UK has a disability, according to the Family Resources Survey for the financial year 2021 to 2022.

The Government’s National Disabilty Strategy 2021 found that the annual spending power of disabled people in the UK is estimated to be £274 billion and rising.

Bela Gor head of legal at Business Disability Forum said: “We know that animals can offer vital assistance and support to many disabled people making it possible for people to shop and socialise independently. For businesses, however, there are legitimate concerns about the impact of different animals on other customers and the wider business. Our guide explains what businesses need to know in order to be able to make reasonable adjustments and make sure all customers can access your business.”

Five top tips taken from the new guides:

  1. Businesses must not refuse entry to customers with guide dogs and assistance animals – as long as the animal is quiet, well-behaved and not disruptive. There are very few instances where refusing entry is lawful.
  2. Customer-facing staff, such as security and assistance staff, must know not to refuse entry to customers with guide dogs and assistance dogs.
  3. Businesses are allowed to advertise a “no dogs” policy – but if they do, they must also advertise that guide dogs and assistance dogs are exempted from this policy.
  4. Well-behaved emotional support animals are likely to be reasonable if guide dogs and assistance animals are – but businesses should start thinking about which types of animals can and cannot reasonably be allowed in.
  5. Businesses should look at consumer spaces and identify any barriers to a person accompanied by a guide dog. Work to remove those barriers before a customer raises an issue.

You can access the latest guides here.