Sunday, 2 March 2008

No Animals at the Mardi Gras Parade

L-R: Pema (in pram), Kane (with boots), Eedra & Clover Moore MP before the parade.

Well, we did it; two Barking Mad members & dogs walked in support of Clover More, along with 100,000 others marching for various rights for a vibrant and diverse community - and for FUN. Having only watched the parade once before, and not having been in a parade since I was twirling a baton and a silly wooden rifle with wearing cute white boots at age 8 surrounded by giggling girls - AND, not being a 'crowd' person - despite Pema the dog being one - IT WAS QUITE AN EXPERIENCE!!!!!!!

Would we do it again? While in the 'lock down' for three hours before the parade and after being HASSLED by another ignorant STA bus driver who hasn't been told of our right to travel with pets (and therefore upsetting passesengers), the operator refused to drive on and I could see this going crazy again. Eventually, she realised all was safe and well, but didn't miss an opportunity to be extremely rude when we got off the bus. SO tired of this... So would we do it again? NO WAY. That is until the parade actually started and the crowd went wild wanting to pet Kane and then thought Pema in the pram following was SO CUTE. The dogs were a big hit. We think they have fully passed their public access tests now - so please stop hassling us with well-behaved, highly-trained (and loved dogs).

A Barking Mad float next year? Volunteer here.

12 comments:

Sandy said...

Why don't you call Pema an "Assistance Dog" rather than a pet? Also, if you put a vest on her saying "Assistance Dog" then I doubt you would have as many hassles as you describe.

Not trying to be rude or anything - I just honestly don't understand why you don't do these things? It would make things so much easier for you.

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

Sandy, I appreciate your comments and hope you become a member if you are not yet. With respect, calling Pema an assistance dog makes no difference - honest! We're dealing with a public that is so 'guide dogged out' that no other assistance dogs are recognised by the general public, the authorities and even the POLICE. Too true I'm afraid. Members have put on the dark glasses and used the white cane and no problems.

The exception to this general public perception is usually from people who work in health care or those with personal experience from a family member. We've even had a court magistrate say (not to me) 'you don't really need that dog'. By LAW, a guide dog is 'not really needed'. Assistance is different that need?

Why do we do it? Because Barking Mad is not just about assistance dogs. Barking Mad is about responsible owners getting a fair share of public space and not be blamed for all the problems in society or the dog owners and dogs people don't like.

(PS - our dogs could be the cleaners on the trains because the floor is sure full of litter and food and no one else seems to clean it!). Hope this helps. Happy to continue this more off blog.

Pema was identified as an assistance dog at the pub incident (the first arrest) and no go - two common responses 'you don't look like you have a disability' (in other words, do you really need that wheelchair?), and show me the paper (sorry, my medical stuff is covered by privacy laws).

Sandy said...

Gosh.. Well the reasons I asked was because I have had an Assistance Dog for two years. I have an invisible disability and I have never been kicked off/out of anywhere! My Assistance Dog is always vested, even though it is not required by law, just to make things easier for us. She has come to hospital with me, to work, shopping, to doctor's offices, restaurants, police station (to get a JP to sign forms for me) and basically everywhere I go.

I admit I have been questioned before (twice at shopping centres and once at a doctor's office.) At the shopping centres, I simply pointed to her vest and told them she is an Assistance Dog, and then all was fine. At the doctor's office the woman simply had no idea, and tried making me leave, so I ended up giving her a brochure explaining disability laws, and she left me alone after that.

So for two years, I think that is pretty good. My dog has the same rights as a Guide Dog, and I make sure that anyone who is ignorant or who tries to give us a hard time (hardly anyone!) gets informed.

The other place I have had problems is with the airlines. I don't know what can be done about that.

So that is why I asked why you don't always refer to Pema as an Assistance Dog (because calling her a 'pet' or 'companion dog' at times, and Assistance Dog at other times could surely confuse people) and that is why I suggested you have her wear a vest. I'm certain that if my dog was not vested then I would have had just as many problems as you!

Honestly, I was shocked to read that the police still arrested you even after you told them Pema is an Assistance Dog and that you are disabled. It makes me a bit scared to go to Sydney!

Kane said...

Eedra, being in the parade was fantastic and both dogs definitiely demonstrated that irregardless of their assistance dog status thay are more than suited to public access. On the issue of of identifying assistance dogs with vests etc. raised here, I think that in the absence of a national id system, there will be ongoing discrimination and interrogation and being subjected to individual and acts of bad faith as demonstrated in the case of your recent arrest as as was demonstrated by one of the parade organisers who knew of the assistance dogs and , yet still felt it necessary to ask what the dog assisted with so as to determine the legitimacy of "it" being in the parade and when I explained that it was inappropriate to ask let alone think that he was qualified to make such a judgement he said angrily "then you are responsible for your dog and I wash my hands of both of you". Prior to this he asked me sarcastically "am I being discriminatory?" (by suggesting I shouldn't be in the parade because I had an assistance dog with me). Therefore I think that rather than being left exposed to such scrutiny and surveillance, we should look at a campaign aimed at creating awareness, along side opening up public spaces from the closure effected by the climate of ignorance and prejudice that petty bureaucrats have nurtured here for so long and for all pets of responsible owners to have the same rights, such as already exist in law for public transport, and only then can the situation change to an acceptable and equitable state of affairs. I personally would rather not have my disability rendered visible, indiscriminately, for safety and privacy. Ben.

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

POSTED FOR BEN OWNER OF ASSISTANCE DOG KANE by BARKING MAD due to posting problems.

I don't think identifying assistance animals with vests or badges, leads and what not is the answer. The incidents that have been highlighted on this website, such as Eedra’s unfortunate encounter with the transit and NSW police, the man in Adelaide being assaulted by a bus driver (in both instances identified assistance dogs) or my own recent experiences in Leichhardt and Darlinghurst with shop keepers, hotel staff and patrons illustrates this point.

Briefly on entering a pub in Darlinghurst I was harassed by a bar manager over having Kane whilst also carrying an identifying cane for visually impaired people and similarly forcibly removed from the entry of a grocery shop in Leichhardt, where the staff member in question attempted to drag myself and Kane (by the lead) out of the shop declaring it a "no pet zone".

Taxis more often than not will not pick me up whether booked or on the roadside in spite of my cane and because of the dog. Our physical removal from the opera house when we VIP guests of the ABC and Opera Australia and a 5* hotel, reflected the same ideas as the above incidents embody and that is that dogs are a problem. (At the Opera House, the 'men in uniforms' took it upon themselves to declare the law).

To think that identification will help is to deny these events as real and seek out an alternate explanation that makes them appear exceptional, not because the behaviour of the perpetrators of discrimination in each instance are wrong but more likely to think it must be the fault of the handler. This is not the case, however.

The ease with which people become aggressive and the speed with which they classify us as a problem and refuse to listen to any reason, irregardless of the kinds of identification at hand/offered speaks of a more deeply ingrained issue than mere visual signifiers or their absence.

In fact recently I was threatened by a patron of a pub because they decided that having Kane with me in shoes (to protect him from the broken glass all over the streets) was cruel and he should be taken off me. Another patron in another establishment made physical threats to me because when he decided to interrogate me over my disability and I refused to discuss it with him (this started because Kane had a rain coat on and the person in question saw my cane and the coat as symbols of an assistance/guide dog) he decided I didn't have a disability at all.

Basically in all these instances people are reacting to dogs in the only way they know and that is to see them as "matter out of place" when they are in public places aka polluting/dangerous/unclean and any handler of a dog as fair game to interrogate and harass. The conception runs so deep here in Australia that mere identification is not going to better the situation.

To further medicalise the situation and start drawing boundaries between "pets" and assistance/guide dogs is only going to feed into this mind set and reinforce it, not address the core issue. I think that we need a far more inclusive society that recognises the place of all animals equally as a positive, no, essential part of human existence/experience and this can only be achieved by moving beyond the parochialism of medical vs. "recreational" and the inherent hierarchy of legitimacy/illegitimacy that it imposes.

To illustrate this I got Kane given to me as a pet after 14 years of living with a disability that limited my participation in public life, he changed that for me in fundamental ways. To impose the distinction you are asserting, Sandy, I would not be rejoining the work force and living a much fuller and happier life with increased mobility. To deny others the chance of finding a way out of similar situations by defining dogs thus makes no sense.

Allowing all responsible dog/pet owners the chance and right to participate fully in public life is the only way the limited conceptions outlined above where police and other minor or self declared "authorities" abuse, intimidate and discriminate against people can be properly redressed, that is by making it normal, not medical.

If public space is open to everyone who is a responsible handler then the labels and signs and our disabilities won't be made an issue and we can go on living normally. Identification with a Medicare card can be used to differentiate where such distinctions are truly necessary, not for mere access to places we have right to already. Ben

cath said...

For many years, I was on the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Board. We had a no animals policy because of an incident at an early parade where a horse drawn carriage was entered. The horses were not accustomed to crowds or working at night in an urban environment and were very definitely at risk. Over the years we had people wanting to bring their goats, cats, birds and a cow. As organisers we were responsible for the safety of all participants and spectators. With the numbers that attend safety is A MAJOR ISSUE. Remember that for a long time the police and others were trying very hard to shut the parade down and security was one of the ways they tried to do it. It wasn't always tolerance and acceptance and good fun.
My advice for the future would be to formally enter, pay the entrance fee and meet with the Parade Committee to ensure that they understand the status of the animals and the campaign for public acceptance. That way, when the Parade Marshals are being trained (they are all volunteers), information about Barking Mad and the dogs, can be included.
I would be happy to help with this.

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

Hi Cath, Thanks for the offer of assistance. Barking Mad followed the directions of the 'parade manager' for entry and for participation, well in advance of the parade. The fact that one volunteer didn't get the message is just a fact; it's hard to train people in things new to them - Sydney Bus Drivers and dogs is a classic, most do not know the rules despite the Transport Minister publishing them – after our 8 month campaign. We understand the need for safety, so explaining the noise, the wait, the lack of toilets, the lock-up pre-parade provides responsible owners with the information they need to make a decision to take their pet, to participate with their assistance animal, or as a parent to take a child.

Kane said...

Cath your offer for assistance with having assistance dogs in Mardigras would be great as I intend marching again next year and have to say that since Mardigras I have been to Oxford St a number of times and am struck by the hostility and pettiness of the patrons and managers of establishments there towards myself and Kane. Recently I went to the Oxford Hotel where kane and I had become regulars known to the bar staff and bouncers alike. During the course of my visits i have been interrogated numerous times and sometimes unrelentingly by patrons but most recently the manager of the establishment confronted me and after an unnecessarily hostile interrogation that follwed on from his teling me I was not to bring "the dog" into the pub again and my explaining it was ok as he was an assistance dog he then attempted to set all kinds of rules and regulations regarding my being allowed to visit with Kane, ranging from not being allowed to take him onto the verandah (because food is served there) down to ordering me to show proof of Kane's assistance dog status EVERYTIME I went there. That this is clear cut discrimination is obvious and I am taking it to HEROC but it is not isolated to this establishment alone. So I think the general gay community could benefit from a higher awareness (and hopefuly empathy/understanding) that a dog float would certainly help to achieve. So please if you have any suggestions I am all ears.

Kane said...

Cath your offer for assistance with having assistance dogs in Mardigras would be great as I intend marching again next year and have to say that since Mardigras I have been to Oxford St a number of times and am struck by the hostility and pettiness of the patrons and managers of establishments there towards myself and Kane. Recently I went to the Oxford Hotel where kane and I had become regulars known to the bar staff and bouncers alike. During the course of my visits i have been interrogated numerous times and sometimes unrelentingly by patrons but most recently the manager of the establishment confronted me and after an unnecessarily hostile interrogation that follwed on from his teling me I was not to bring "the dog" into the pub again and my explaining it was ok as he was an assistance dog he then attempted to set all kinds of rules and regulations regarding my being allowed to visit with Kane, ranging from not being allowed to take him onto the verandah (because food is served there) down to ordering me to show proof of Kane's assistance dog status EVERYTIME I went there. That this is clear cut discrimination is obvious and I am taking it to HEROC but it is not isolated to this establishment alone. So I think the general gay community could benefit from a higher awareness (and hopefuly empathy/understanding) that a dog float would certainly help to achieve. So please if you have any suggestions I am all ears.

sandy said...

I didn't realise you had replied again, Ben. Thanks for that. I had previously suggested that if Eedra was having problems with being denied access to public places, she could perhaps think about putting an identifying vest on her Assistance Dog because that would likely ease her problem.

I am just after some clarification. You said "To impose the distinction you are asserting, Sandy, I would not be rejoining the work force and living a much fuller and happier life with increased mobility. To deny others the chance of finding a way out of similar situations by defining dogs thus makes no sense."

What I am not quite understanding, is why you would be unable to take your Assistance Dog to work with you if you had a vest on him. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your comment. Is it more that you don't want your dog identified as an Assistance Dog because of stigma, etc? I was not trying to deny other disabled individuals the positives that come with having an Assistance Dog, on the contrary, I was merely making a suggestion by letting you know what has worked for me and my Assistance Dog. That is, when my Assistance Dog is wearing a vest, we are hardly ever questioned or challenged. On the couple of occasions I have taken my Assistance Dog out without a vest (for various reasons) of course I have expected to be questioned, because there was nothing identifying her as an Assistance Dog.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, can you show a photo of the vest and let us know where it comes from?

sandy said...

You can get them from the Assistance Dog training organisation, or if your dog is self trained, you can make them or purchase online.