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An Auckland tow truck driver has been slammed after trying to tow away a Blind Foundation vehicle carrying two guide dogs in the back.
A Blind Foundation charity worker was parked outside the old New World along East St in Papakura about lunchtime yesterday when she left the boot open to give the dogs some fresh air.
But when the woman, who had a guide dog with her returned, she was met by the sight of the truck moments away from towing her car.
The Blind Foundation told The New Zealand Herald the situation was "dangerous and frightening" and could have ended badly for the dogs.
"One of our staff members parked in this spot, genuinely unaware of the parking policy. While the lack of visible parking signage is unfortunate, the driver's main concern was for the two guide dogs in training, in the back of the vehicle.
"The purpose-built car had been left with the boot up to provide air for the dogs through the enclosure, which is standard practice for the Guide Dogs team, and the towing contractor had closed the boot to place the vehicle on his truck.
"The safety of our guide dogs is of utmost concern. It takes a dedicated investment of nearly two years to train a guide dog, supported by generous New Zealanders."
A witness said the tow truck driver demanded the charity worker pay a $100 fee to unhook the car.
The Blind Foundation said the car was eventually released and the dogs were not harmed during the ordeal.
However, they say when the charity worker asked the driver what the company's policy is on towing vehicles with animals, they were met with a distasteful response.
"After inquiring with the contractor about their policy on towing vehicles with dogs, our staff member was informed their policy was to contact Animal Control once the vehicle had been towed to the yard," the Blind Foundation told the Herald.
"The idea of animals being put at risk through this kind of towing practice is very disappointing to the Blind Foundation. This type of behaviour puts animals in a potentially dangerous and frightening situation, especially as the weather gets warmer.
"Unlike humans, dogs can't sweat to cool themselves which makes proper ventilation extremely important."
A witness, who wished to not be named, revealed the incident could have escalated had a woman walking by not stopped the tow truck driver from taking off back to the yard.
The property is understood to be privately owned.
Recent signage has been put up on the premises, warning the public not to use the car parking with towing and wheel clamping enforced 24 hours a day.
Towing company Supercity Towing, who used a CBD Recovery during the incident, refused to comment, telling the Herald the company owner was currently overseas.
Locals criticised the towing company, with many saying they are trying to exploit shoppers.
"This is really stupid, that's been empty for sooooooo long now. Just let it be public parking, for flip sake. Poor lady, sad that happened to her," one person said.
Another wrote: "My question on this is - had there been children in the car instead of dogs - would they have done the same and towed car?"