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La presse signale plusieurs cas de chauffeurs musulmans dans différents pays occidentaux (Australie60; États-Unis61; Canada62; Royaume uni63; Norvège64) refusant de transporter des voyageurs accompagnés de leurs chiens, y compris lorsque les voyageurs sont des aveugles se servant de chiens dressés pour les guider. Ce même problème se rencontre avec des voyageurs transportant de l'alcool.
Ces informations font l'objet de commentaires enflammés de la part de lecteurs de sites internet, demandant à ces chauffeurs de quitter le pays s'ils ne veulent pas s'adapter à ses normes, voire de changer de métier, exigeant le retrait de permis de conduire de ces chauffeurs. Les associations d'aveugles crient à la discrimination et ont porté plainte contre ces chauffeurs. Des autorités infligent à ces chauffeurs des amendes élevées. Ce à quoi les chauffeurs répondent qu'il s'agit d'une atteinte à leur liberté religieuse, voire à la liberté de commerce, un chauffeur étant libre de prendre dans son taxi qui il veut. On demande aux muftis et autres personnes religieuses musulmanes d'intervenir pour expliquer aux chauffeurs musulmans que le chien d'aveugle peut être toléré par analogie avec le chien de chasse ou garde, puisqu'il est utile. L'Office du transport public à Londres a dû publier un décret à ce sujet qui dit:
PCO Notice 01/0665
Carriage of Assistance Dogs in PHVs and Taxis
Advice for Operators and Drivers
The Government and Transport for London are committed to an accessible public transport system in which disabled people can enjoy the same opportunities to travel as other members of society. Private hire vehicles (PHVs) and taxis are a vital link in the accessible transport chain and it is important that disabled people who use guide, hearing or other assistance dogs, have confidence that they can book a PHV or hire a taxi which will carry them and their dog at no extra charge. Guide, hearing and other assistance dogs have given many disabled people the confidence to travel independently and, for these people, PHVs and taxis can often be a lifeline.
Private Hire Vehicle Operators
PCO Notice 1/04 advised of the legal requirement, from 31 March 2004, for PHV operators to:
• accept bookings made by or on behalf of a disabled person who is accompanied by a guide, hearing or other assistance dog;
• accept bookings made by a person who will be accompanied in the PHV by such a disabled person; and
• not make an additional charge for carrying the disabled passengers' assistance dog.
Private Hire Vehicle Drivers
Since 31 March 2004, a driver of a licensed PHV which has been hired by or for a disabled person with their guide, hearing or prescribed assistance dog; or by a person who will be accompanied in the PHV by such a disabled person; has been required to:
• carry the disabled passenger's assistance dog and allow it to remain with the passenger; and to do so without additional charge.
It has been a legal requirement since March 2001 for taxi drivers to carry guide, hearing and assistance dogs accompanying disabled people and to do so without any additional charge.
All operators and drivers are reminded of these obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
If you fail to comply with these duties, you will be guilty of an offence and, on conviction, liable to a fine currently up to £1,000.
The legislation covers the following types of dog:
Guide dogs: trained by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to guide a visually impaired person. These dogs wear a harness.
Hearing dogs: trained to assist a deaf person. These dogs wear a jacket with the words ‘Hearing Dogs for Deaf People’.
Other assistance dogs: those trained by ‘Dogs for the Disabled’, ‘Support Dogs’ or ‘Canine Partners’ to assist a disabled person with a physical impairment. These dogs should be wearing a jacket inscribed with the name of the relevant charity.
In addition, the owners of all these dogs will carry an identity card with the name of the relevant charity. It is important to remember that assistance dogs are highly trained animals and will remain on the floor of your vehicle. They are unlikely to damage or dirty it in any way.
Dogs and Islamic Law
Guidance from the Shariat Council in 2002 confirmed that trained assistance dogs may accompany disabled people in taxis and private hire vehicles managed or driven by Muslims. The Council’s guidance helps to clarify religious law and prevent any possible conflict with secular law.
Lord Ahmed, a Muslim spokesperson in the House of Lords, said that “Islam is a religion that cares for people. Although it is not encouraged to keep a dog in the house, if the dog is owned for reasons of safety then it is permitted. When a disabled person is accompanied by a trained dog, such a dog becomes a blind person’s eyes and therefore should not be stopped from entering with a blind person.”
Bert Massie, Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), commented: “Disabled people will welcome the positive approach taken by leading members of the Muslim community to ensure that disabled people do not face discrimination because of a misunderstanding of Islam”.
Drivers can seek exemptions from these duties only on medical grounds (there is no exemption available to operators).
If you have a medical condition, such as severe asthma, which is aggravated by contact with dogs, or if you are allergic or have an acute phobia to dogs, it may be possible for you to qualify for an exemption. Applications should be made to the Public Carriage Office using the appropriate form which can be obtained from the PHV and taxi driver licensing sections (as applicable) on 0845 602 7000.
3 January 2006 Head of the Public Carriage Office
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