'Dog gives me my independence' says Harborough woman

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A high street retailer summoned a security guard to eject a woman from their store because she had a mental health assistance dog.

33-year-old Lisa Parratt has struggled with anxiety since secondary school, but she said her confidence has skyrocketed since she began going everywhere with Shadow – her mental health recovery assistance dog.

The seven-year-old patterdale terrier is specially trained to spot the signs of Lisa’s anxiety attacks and to deliberately distract her before they get any worse.

“She often detects an anxiety attack before I do and she has a number of ways of distracting me – sometimes she’ll pull on the lead,” Lisa said.

“She’s given me my independence.”

Lisa would like to raise awareness of the vital role that assistance and support dogs of all kinds play in the hope that she and others can enjoy days out without being challenged by staff in businesses who assume that only guide dogs should be allowed inside.

“Companies aren’t aware of the different kinds of support dogs and I get people telling me that only guide dogs are allowed in shops,” Lisa said.

“Shadow is clearly marked as an assistance dog – but people still approach us in shops.

“Sometimes they approach us in quite an unpleasant way.”

A particularly distressing incident involved staff in a national high-street retailer summoning security to walk her out of a Leicester branch because they would not accept that Lisa’s dog was allowed inside the store.

“I contacted head office and they said they were sorry.

“They sent a voucher but I feel a bit fobbed-off,” Lisa said.

She said this incident, combined with other instances of staff challenging her and Shadow in an intimidating way, is worsening her anxiety.

To learn more about mental health recovery assistance dogs, visit www.recoveryassistancedogs.org.uk