Victoria Nolan’s guide dog Alan is her lifeline.
“Before I had a guide dog I was literally afraid to leave my house,” said Nolan.
But not everyone understands that guide dogs must be permitted in all public places and businesses.
It has been one year since staff at a Lawrence Heights Tim Hortons told Nolan that Alan was not allowed inside.
Tim Hortons later claimed the staff member didn’t realize Alan is a guide dog.
Nolan said the chain apologized and agreed to replace outdated signs, which said “no pets” with new ones saying service animals welcome.
A year later signs were found at nearly all Tim Hortons locations checked by Global News.
You have to look closely though, they are about four centimetres by 11 centimetres. That’s smaller than most smartphones.
Nolan also asked Tim Hortons to update employee training, but says she was told they couldn’t because training is not dealt with nationally.
“I’m a little frustrated by that because obviously they have policies that are nationwide of their merchandising,” said Nolan.
When Global News requested an an interview three weeks ago, Tim Hortons responded with an email which said, in part: “Team Members complete mandatory training on accommodating guests and signage has been updated.”
Since then, Global News has sent more than a dozen emails with follow-up questions.
Tim Hortons has not replied to a single one.
Additionally, when Global News called the chain’s head office, the receptionist refused to forward the call to media relations staff.
We also tried calling and asking for the media relations person.
“This is our procedure going forward. It all goes to an email address,” said the woman who answered the phone.
The owner of a sushi restaurant where another woman, Karoline Bourdeau, had an issue last year invited Global News back to talk. He’s apologized and is volunteering with guide dog training.
Also last year, both women had trouble getting Toronto to enforce its guide dog bylaw.
As a result the city promised to expand the bylaw to include all service dogs, which it has done.
It also promised to better train 311 operators, so they would know that the city should respond.
Global News called 311 three diferent times and spoke with three different operators.
All three were flawless and knew a bylaw enforcement officer could investigate.
Knowing she’ll get that kind of a response is a huge relief for Nolan.
“It’s scary to put your trust in a dog when you can’t see.”