Calls for action over attacks on guide dogs

 

Attacks on guide dogs are rising, it was revealed today as MPs prepare to debate extra controls for dangerous animals.

Guide Dogs for the Blind urged the Government to offer greater protection to those with limited or no sight as it explained that 240 of the specially trained animals were attacked over the past two years, an all-time high of ten a month.

“They can’t be treated the same way as other dogs. They are a lifeline,” said Hayley Johnson, 27, whose labrador Una was mauled by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

“It was beyond terrifying. I was hysterical. I threw myself on top of them both to try and separate them. Una was yelping. The dog was clinging to her like a bone, ripping into her from leg. I had this moment of clarity when I realised that I physically couldn’t get this dog off her. That’s when I started screaming for help,” said Ms Johnson, who explained that guide dogs are particularly helpless as they are trained to be passive.

A passer-by came to their aid but the police took no action against the female owner of the dog despite the fact that Una had a severely injured leg and Ms Johnson bites to her hand.

“It turned my life upside down. Una couldn’t work for a month. I didn’t dare leave the house for a long time and she was scared of other dogs. My heart was broken because she is so passive. Any sign of aggression in guide dogs and they don’t make the grade,” explained the civil servant.

While fully supportive of the police, she said she was stunned that their attitude seemed to be to simply dismiss it as a dog fight: “We have been a partnership for seven years. Una gave me a new lease of life.  She is amazing. I would struggle without her.”

A report by Guide Dogs revealed today that 240 dog attacks were reported between March 2011 and February 2013. Five of the animals had to be withdrawn from service. It added that the trauma of such attacks could result in a complete loss of confidence and some victims became fearful of leaving the house.

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, due to be debated by MPs today, will contain proposals to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. For the first time it will make an attack on an assistance dog an aggravated offence. It will also make it an offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control when there is ‘reasonable concern’ that it will injure an assistance dog such as a guide dog.

Guide Dogs’ Chief Executive Richard Leaman said: “A change in the law can’t come quickly enough for our guide dog owners, who too often have to bear the devastating consequences of these attacks. When a guide dog is attacked, someone with sight loss can completely lose their means of getting out and about independently. The impact on their life is huge and we are calling on the Government to do everything in its power to promote responsible dog ownership, deter these attacks, and ensure this deeply worrying trend does not continue.”

Mr Leaman continued: “We have fought long and hard on this issue and while we are delighted these measures are being proposed, there is no time to lose. Only when irresponsible owners are held accountable for their dogs, and heavily punished for their aggression, do we believe the number of attacks on guide dogs will come down.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen