Transport Secretary hits out at rail station dog ban

Grant Shapps called for Horsley station manager Richard Bunce to be allowed to continue bringing his dog George to work.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has described a train company’s decision to stop a station manager bringing his dog to work as “ruff justice”.

The Cabinet minister intervened on behalf of Richard Bunce, 54, and his dog George, who were a popular pair at Horsley station in the Surrey village of East Horsley.

South Western Railway (SWR) discovered Mr Bunce, a former train guard, was bringing his four-year-old German wirehaired pointer to work when it was mentioned in a review of the station, MailOnline reported.

The firm told him to stop as it was against its rules, but Mr Bunce cannot make or afford alternative arrangements as his shifts start at 5.30am, so he is no longer able to do his job.

More than 3,900 people have signed an online petition calling for SWR to “make an exception” so Mr Bunce and George can return to the station.

Adam Aaronson, who started the petition, wrote: “George wasn’t doing any harm.

“He and Richard make a great team and that makes a lovely, happy station. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Mr Shapps sent a Twitter message to SWR which stated: “Sad to hear that South Western Railway (is) planning to dispense with the services of George the station dog, along with his owner, station master Richard Bunce.

“Sounds like RUFF justice to me! A little less tick-boxing would brighten up everyone’s day.”

Mr Bunce, who is the sole worker at the station during his shifts, told MailOnline: “For some people, dogs are family – that’s what George is to me.

“I took it upon myself to bring him into work. I was never told I couldn’t, but I didn’t ask either.

“It never caused any problems. Everyone has been very positive about it. He stays in the ticket office so he’s not a bother.

“But as of Monday, going forward, dogs aren’t allowed in the ticket office.”

A SWR spokesman said: “While we don’t allow dogs to be brought into workplaces across our network, we of course recognise the strength of feeling in the local community and from our customers at the station.

“Our teams have been working with Richard this week to find a way for him and George to continue their good work at Horsley, while maintaining the safety of our customers and colleagues, and hope to resolve soon.”

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