Retired police officer Emma Clarke with the official card she carries that states her rights and the rights of Bailey Quill

October 28, 2021

A 13-year veteran of the Queensland Police Service was left stunned and shaking when she was refused service recently in a South Burnett hotel.

Emma Clarke attempted to order a meal at the establishment but was told she could not be seated in the hotel restaurant because she was accompanied by her assistance dog, Bailey Quill.

She has now lodged an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission about the incident, but also wants to raise more awareness in the community about the rights of assistance dogs and their handlers.

Bailey Quill, a golden retriever, sat quietly at Emma’s feet when southburnett.com.au caught up with the pair recently in a Kingaroy cafe, one of the places where Emma says she has never had any issue with her licensed companion.

Emma served as a Senior Constable for 10 years in North Queensland, being sent to jobs from Cairns to Aurukun. She was then transferred to Logan where she was exposed to more troubling incidents.

As a uniformed officer, she was often the first responder on the scene of domestic violence calls, traffic crashes or other traumatic events.

She was medically retired from the QPS in 2016 after being diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress disorder.

She moved to Wondai for a quieter life.

Three and a half years ago, she acquired Bailey Quill when he was just eight weeks old. His training as an assistance dog began not long after.

Emma goes everywhere with him – and she credits him with saving her life.

“I can become overwhelmed by people in public spaces. He recognises when I get anxious and distracts me and steers me through,” Emma said.

“He’s not just a pet.”

The fact Bailey Quill is “not just a pet” is recognised by the State Government.

Emma carries a card, issued by the government, that bears both her and Bailey Quill’s photographs.

As the card clearly states, Bailey Quill has the right to be at most places – including restaurants, taxis, buses and aircraft. People who refuse him access can face steep fines.

Emma has taken Bailey Quill on Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar aircraft with no issues.

“The airlines are great. Jetstar even gave me a spare seat,” she said.

But this is not the reaction she received when she tried to have dinner in the hotel restaurant on October 12.

Bailey Quill was wearing his official assistance dog jacket and Emma showed her licence, but it had no affect on the staff.

“I was told that I was not going to be seated in the restaurant because I had the dog. I was told I would have to sit in the public bar, which I felt uncomfortable with,” Emma said.

“I produced Bailey’s licence and attempted to show (the staff). Both refused to even look at it or provide me with their names. I was also told they would not seat me because other diners might not want the dog around.

“She then said she would ask the other diners if they were willing to have the dog around. I told her that it doesn’t work like that and that she was discriminating against me because I had Bailey and I need him with me for my disability.

“She was adamant that I was not to be seated in the restaurant. She again refused to listen or look at the licence, so I read the explanation to her aloud.

“She spoke over the top of me and refused to listen, telling me that she didn’t care. This happened in the public bar and it was embarrassing and humiliating being treated and dismissed the way I was.

“It wasn’t just that I was being discriminated against; she was being really rude and made no attempt to understand her responsibilities and obligations in the given situation.

“I understand that not all people fully understand the rights and roles of assistance dogs, but there is no need to remain ignorant and dismissive if someone is trying to explain that discrimination was taking place, it was unfair and against the law.

“In my experience most people are eager and willing to listen and quickly understand that Bailey isn’t just a pet dog, rather he has been highly trained to conduct specific tasks.

“To continue to refuse to seat me like they would any other person, especially when I attempted to explain the law, was grossly unfair. The whole experience was really upsetting.”

Emma has previously lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over discrimination after a ride-share driver refused to honour her booking because she had Bailey. On that occasion, she says the driver was ordered to donate $5000 to an Assistance Dogs organisation.

Footnote:  southburnett.com.au twice attempted to get a response from the hotel concerned, but the woman who answered on the second occasion said there was no comment she could make that “we would not twist round” and hung up.

Emma Clarke with Bailey Quill sitting quietly in a Kingaroy cafe
The front and back of the official card that Emma carries and she says she tried to show to staff at the hotel
The official Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog harness and coat that Bailey Quill wears when working

Anderssons Fruit Market for quality fruits and vegetables

 

3 Responses to "A Little Card Should Protect Emma"

  1. Bouncer  October 29, 2021

    It is totally an absolutely WRONG to be treated this way. The system currently in place is failing if even one person experiences this kind of discrimination. I’m sure that to undergo such discrimination can be quite traumatic.

    Perhaps it’s time for a re-think. For starters, the authorities need to mount an awareness campaign.

    Ideally, a special, quick acting anti-discrimination unit would be established that could be contacted by the victim. The unit would send an officer to the site to issue an immediate and hefty fine. That would probably get the attention of people who, either through ignorance or disregard for the law, inflict this discrimination upon fellow citizens.

    But none of that is going to happen, at least not anytime soon.

    The cost of having this type of incident investigated and perhaps taken to court would far exceed the cost of having it quickly resolved.

    It is my belief that such incidents can be just as bad or even worse than physical assault. The incident would be constantly in your thoughts, hammering away at self esteem and mental health. No fine against the perpetrator is going to heal that harm.

    One wonders just how often such incident occur around our country and how often the victim just walks away, not wanting to undergo the trauma that is sure to follow.

    As a nation, we have a long way to go before everyone can feel like they are an equal citizen and are always treated that way.

    My heart goes out to Emma. I hope that she never again has to suffer discrimination of any form.

    Reply
  2. Andrew  October 29, 2021

    What a can of worms. What to do if you have a staff member or patron who is allergic to dog hair? Or simply scared of dogs perhaps having been bitten/attacked as a child?

    There are no winners, I feel sorry for the individual involved. But we don’t know both sides of the story…

    Reply
    • News Desk  October 29, 2021

      Andrew, we tried to get both sides of the story but the hotel involved refused point blank. The legislation states that people who have a licensed support dog must not be refused entry. There are only limited places where the dog is not allowed, for example in a food preparation area.

      Reply

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