Veterans

Not Just A Dog: Campaign For Awareness Of Assistance Dogs

The social media campaign raising awareness for assistance dogs

Ziggy the dog and his owner British Army Veteran Richard Mearns are on a mission to change the way assistance dogs and their owners are treated in public.

Richard said the 'Not Just A Dog' campaign began following multiple incidents where the pair say they were refused entry to shops and restaurants because Ziggy is a dog. 

But he's not just any kind of dog. Ziggy is a fully qualified assistance dog and has been helping Richard since 2016, after he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009. 

Just over 7000 people rely on assistance dogs and there are about 4,800 guide dogs in the UK. The animals are trained to help their owners live their lives with a disability, yet Richard says many people face adversity when out in public with their dogs.

#NotJustADog. Credit Richard Mearns

There have been many occasions where Richard and Ziggy say they have been told to leave places. Richard said:

"It quickly became apparent that, although most accept assistance dogs, I was going into places and being kicked out."

Richard, who served in Iraq as a medic, is asking for people to spread awareness of guide and assistance dogs.

"Others have said (to me) they won't go to some places because of (previously) being refused entry."

The campaign plan starts with getting people, including shops and brands, talking on social media.

Richard hopes to create a register that guide and assistance dogs and their owners can be voluntarily added to, which will protect the businesses as well as dogs and their owners. Guide dogs are already protected under The Human Rights Act 1998, but he still wants more to be done.