Dog attacks are of great concern to the organisation and to guide dog owners.
The number of guide dog owners who are reporting dog attacks on their guide dogs appears to be increasing. The impact of such attacks is not only physical injury to the guide dog and, in some cases to the owner, but also psychological to the guide dog and/or the owner. In severe cases, guide dogs have had to be retired prematurely because they are unable to continue working. This has obvious implications for the owner both in terms of their mobility but also in the loss of a companion.
Guide Dogs research shows that nearly two thirds of the attacking dogs were off their lead at the time and that almost half of the aggressors (just under 46%) were bull breeds - bulldogs, mastiffs, bull terriers, and pit bull types.
The research also highlights that a similar proportion of attacks - 61% - were made on dogs that were in harness and working with their owner or trainer at the time of the attack. Most of the incidents taking place in public places and in daylight hours between 0900 and 1500 hours.
What are the issues?
As a result of the attacks many guide dogs needed veterinary care. In one in five cases, either the handler or a member of the public sustained injuries, including scratching, bruising, and bites to the hands, ankle or head. In eight of these 19 cases, medical attention was required.
An attack can lead to a vulnerable person being left alone with an injured dog and in need of assistance or medical care. If veterninary treatment is needed the guide dog owner may be without a guide dog for a period of time while the dog recovers.
As well as the trauma experienced by the dog and/or the owner, the costs of veterinary care have financial implications for Guide Dogs. As we rely on the generosity of the general public to fund our activities we are concerned that some of their valued donations have to be spent on dealing with the aftermath of dog attacks. If the guide dog has to be retired prematurely then the economic consequences are even more serious and the impact on the quality of life and mobility of the guide dog owner is undermined while they wait for a suitable replacement dog.
While we want to see effective measures to address the issue, we would be concerned if restrictions on dogs in public places led to parks and open spaces being designated only for "dogs on leads". Such a restriction would impact on the majority of responsible dog owners, but it would also impact on guide dog owners in particular who need to have a good choice of open space to be able to free run their dogs, as well being able to use accessible spaces.
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Guide Dogs presented the Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP with a large talking birthday card to wish him a very happy birthday for 26 July 2012. The card, which includes a recording of people from the Guide Dogs London office singing Happy Birthday, was presented by the Guide Dogs Campaigns Team at the Department for Transport.