Proposal to combat attacks on guide dogs

Proposed

Executive summary

The number of reported attacks on guide dogs has risen from three a month (Brooks et al., (2010)) to over seven dog attacks a month within a 14 month period to August 2011.

In most cases the causes of the attack was unprovoked and where the dog was uncontrolled and off the lead.

The breed type responsible for the largest proportion of dog attacks were Bull breeds, who were responsible for nearly a third of all reported attacks (28%). A large proportion of the attacks occurred when the owner was present.

The report shows that proportionately more Labradors were attacked and the majority of victim dogs were male and that 51.4% were black in colour.

The report illustrates the devastating impact that dog attacks can have on people and animals. So far three guide dogs have been permanently withdrawn and another two other are currently being assessed to see if they are able to continue working. The other major impact is that blind & partially sighted people are left without a guide dog, which is their mobility aid and become housebound until another suitable dog can be matched up.

The report concludes that some guide dog owners were frightened to go out as a result of the attack and one wanted to move house. This was due to the response of the owners of the attacking dog, who in some cases used verbal abuse against blind & partially sighted people, some appeared to be under the influence of drink or drugs and in one case the owner of an aggressive dog laughed at a guide dog owner during an attack on his guide dog.

The report concludes that 71.0% of people thought that the attacks could have been prevented, just through awareness and proper control of their dogs. Responsible ownership, training and compulsory microchipping would all help reduce the incidents of dog attacks and we urge the government to consider the welfare implications of such attacks and introduce compulsory microchipping without delay. 


Recommendations

1. Have full control over your dog and to be aware of guide dog and other assistance dogs who are working and to make sure no negative interaction takes place
a. Using a lead or muzzle to prevent attacks if your dog is over enthusiastic or aggressive.
b. To call your dog away from a guide dog or assistance dog
c. Check before letting your dog off the lead that no guide dogs are around.

2. Advanced dog Training if you feel that your dog needs it
a. To encourage good recall
b. To reinforce good basic commands
c. To help change bad or anti-social behaviour that dog may have picked up.

3. Introduce compulsory microchipping in England & Wales
a. Identifying animals and establishing proof of ownership can prevent disputes, but also help enforcement agencies in talking anti-social dog behaviour and holding owners to account.
b. It will help prevent back street breading of illegal breeds.
c. The very low cost of a microchip will encourage responsible ownership, which in turn will reduce attacks and improve animal welfare.
d. Should a dog escape or become lost the animal can be reunited quickly preventing distress and huge kennelling costs for police forces and local authorities.

4. Better reporting and enforcement
a. There needs be better reporting forms and training for police officers in dealing with dog on guide dog attacks and better information on interviewing blind or partially sighted people.
b. Establishing ownership of aggressor animals means that it is very difficult for police to bring about a successful prosecution or encourage responsible ownership and training. Again compulsory microchipping would solve this issue and help tackle dog on guide dog attacks.
c. Specialist Police status dog units spend £ millions each year in kennel costs as they are unable to prove ownership, which delays court proceedings and in turn leads to more distress for the animals concerned.

5. An attack on a guide dog or assistance dog should be seen as an attack on the person.
 

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