At least 20 dog-aided blind people have lodged discrimination complaints with the Victorian Taxi Directorate. Dozens more have voiced their anger.
And there have been several complaints that drivers refuse to allow passengers to carry sealed bottles of alcohol.
Victorian Taxi Association spokesman Neil Sach said the association had appealed to the mufti of Melbourne to give religious approval for Muslim cabbies to carry guide dogs.
One Muslim driver, Imran, said yesterday the guide dog issue was difficult for him.
“I don’t refuse to take people, but it’s hard for me because my religion tells me I should not go near dogs,” he said.
There are about 2000 Muslims among drivers of Melbourne’s 10,000 taxis. Many are from countries with strict Islamic teachings about “unclean” dogs and the evils of alcohol.
Drivers who refused to carry blind people with their dogs attended remedial classes at Guide Dogs Victoria, Mr Sach said.
“They are taught why blind people need dogs,” Mr Sach said.
“The Victorian Taxi Association has included a program in their taxi driver training program.”
Guide Dogs Victoria spokeswoman Holly Marquette said blind people regularly reported taxi drivers refusing to carry them because of their dogs.
“It’s sad and quite upsetting,” Ms Marquette said. “We try to work with new drivers to educate them about their responsibilities and the needs and rights of blind people.
“We explain that the dog is clean, well trained, won’t go near them and will stay in the foot well with the client.
“But it’s a high turnover industry and it’s hard to capture everyone.”
Ms Marquette said there was a legal requirement for taxi drivers, shops, restaurants, hotels and supermarkets to accept guide dogs.
Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the guide dog issue would exacerbate the taxi industry’s flagging respect in the community.
Under the State Government’s customer charter, taxi passengers have the right to “be accompanied by a guide dog or hearing dog”.
Mr Sach said the problem was often reversed and that Muslim drivers suffered discrimination from passengers who abused them for being “terrorists”.
“Muslims are good people and the community has to realise that the days of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant are well and truly over,” he said.
Over the past two years the licences of 306 drivers were revoked or suspended, including those who refused to carry the blind and their dogs.