Australian woman 'fed up' after being kicked out of Toowoomba hotel for having guide dog

Australian woman Janice Whittle and her guide dog, Keegan.
Australian woman Janice Whittle and her guide dog, Keegan. Photo credit: 9News

A blind Australian woman with epilepsy is "fed up" with consistent discrimination over her guide dog. 

Author and Brisbane woman Janice Whittle has faced three instances of discrimination in the last two weeks over her guide dog, Keegan. 

She told 7News the discrimination is "absolutely insane" and is telling her story to inform people about the rights of service animals. 

The first instance came when Whittle, who was born with epilepsy and is visually impaired, was trying to catch a taxi from Brisbane Airport late last month when the driver refused to take her because of Keegan. 

Then last Friday, on a trip to the city of Toowoomba in Queensland, the National Hotel kicked her just after paying and checking in. 

Moments after putting her bag on her bed, Whittle heard a knock on the door. It was a staff member from the hotel informing her she had to leave the hotel because of Keegan. 

"You are saying that - Keegan sit, darling - that because I have a service animal, I am being kicked out of the (hotel in) which I've just paid for the accommodation," Whittle is heard saying in the footage she recorded.

The staff member responded by saying she didn't tell them she had a service animal and could request a refund. 

"You didn't state that you did have a service animal. If you did, we would have refunded before you stayed here."

But Whittle hit back saying she was going to file a discrimination suit against the hotel.

"Under the laws, I do not have to. I have paperwork with me that states he is legally allowed in here," Whittle said.

Janice Whittle filmed an interaction with a Toowoomba hotel worker over the presence of her guide dog.
Janice Whittle filmed an interaction with a Toowoomba hotel worker over the presence of her guide dog. Photo credit: Facebook

Whittle told 9News she produced her three-year-old guide dog's identification but that didn't change their stance.

"Eventually she came back and said that she did it through Policelink so the police will not be attending but I will be getting charged," she said.

If that wasn't enough, Whittle claims the very next day, a local cafe said she couldn't sit inside because of her guide dog. 

According to Queensland law, handlers can access public places such as restaurants and shops, public passenger vehicles such as trains or taxis and places of accommodation such as hotels and campgrounds. 

Whittle told 9News she is "fed up" with the consistent discrimination and people need to know the laws around service animals. 

"We are talking cafes, restaurants, hotels, accommodations, retail outlets," she said.

"People just don't seem to understand guide dogs are legally allowed anywhere that I go."

Whittle said Keegan is a "massive part" of her life and relies on him heavily since she suffers from seizures. 

"He's a massive part of my life. He's more than a guide dog. Keegan is everything to me," she told 7News

"Keegan can sense if I have a seizure ... and will get me into a safe place.

"It's really frustrating. Guide dogs have been around for a lot longer than I have."

The National Hotel in Toowoomba said in a statement to 9News the young staff member informed senior management of what happened and was told she had made a mistake.

The hotel apologised and informed Whittle she would be welcome to stay in the venue but she declined.

The hotel said it had always been inclusive of all disabilities and will continue to be moving forward.