By PETER CATON
MURWILLUMBAH ? friendly one moment, rude the next.
Deaf Bray Park resident Ros Taprell is still shocked after some shops in the town refused her access with her newly-acquired Lions hearing dog, Annie, despite facing huge fines.
Worse yet, Annie is now wary of walking along Murwillumbah's main streets after a woman kicked her on Monday.
Ms Taprell says some shops have dismissed her special identification card which explains Annie has the same legal rights to go into public places as any guide dog.
She is stunned that even people on the street have ridiculed Annie, who wears a special orange harness and leash, and have sworn at her.
The worst incident came on Monday outside the Murwillumbah Post Office when a woman swore at Ms Taprell, who can lipread, telling her she was not deaf and kicked Annie.
"She doesn't like walking in the street. She turns around to watch everybody," said an upset Ms Taprell yesterday.
Annie was a dream come true for Ms Taprell who waited more than a year after being accepted as suitable for a dog by the Lions Hearing Dog Centre near Adelaide. Her assessment included a report from a specialist audiologist. Annie now alerts her to a variety of sounds.
Murwillumbah Lions Club members who have been monitoring the dog's progress have also been stunned by the rudeness Ms Taprell has encountered.
"I've been refused in different shops even though Annie has got her harness and everything on," said Ms Taprell.
"Around the streets some people have been quite offensive. It's got me quite upset.
"I get more respect at Tweed Heads than I do in Murwillumbah.
"I just want to let everyone know Annie is just like a guide dog. The only thing is she's not actually guiding me into the shops."
Murwillumbah Sunnyside centre manager Glynnis Henderson said it was a matter of businesses becoming aware of hearing dogs like Annie.
"I remember reading the story when it was on the front of the Daily News," Ms Henderson said.
"Not long after, Ms Taprell approached Sunnyside but was stopped by a security guard who contacted me about her dog.
"I advised him to let her in because the dog was actually serving a purpose and later caught up with Ms Taprell to apologise.
"She is always welcome in the centre with Annie and is well-known there because its where she does her shopping.
"I think it is only a matter of businesses becoming aware that hearing dogs aren't pets but are much like guide dogs in a way and deserve the same protocols."
Ms Henderson said she would consider sending a memo to her tenants regarding the issue to clear up the situation.
For many other businesses, the same situation may apply ? becoming aware of the role of hearing dogs, which unlike guide dogs may vary in breeds.
Ms Taprell hopes others at her job at the Challenge workshops in South Murwillumbah and in the street will also refrain from patting Annie.
"Please do not pat Annie or she just sits up and gets excited and forgets what she is supposed to be doing," she said.
Ms Taprell carries a special card which explains Annie is a Lions Hearing Dog and is permitted by law access to public places and transport in all states and territories of Australia.
Lions Hearing Dog chief executive officer Bill Holmes said he personally phoned one Murwillumbah business last week to explain they were in breach of both the NSW Dog Act and the NSW Anti-discrimination Act.
He said his organisation would "rather educate than litigate" but in the past individuals had taken business to court.