Police commissioner urges action over attacks on guide dogs

THE police commissioner for Northamptonshire has urged action over attacks on guide dogs used by people with visibility problems.

Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds is asking the county’s Chief Constable to ensure that attacks against guide dogs are recorded and wherever possible acted on by police.

Mr Simmonds said he was ‘appalled and saddened’ to learn about the extent of attacks on guide dogs by other dogs in public.

Jackie Elshaw, from the Central Midlands Team of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, told him that on average eight dogs a month are attacked, usually by so-called Status Dogs. In almost half of all attacks the guide dog needed surgery.

Association figures show that since May 2010 there have been attacks on four guide dogs in Northamptonshire. In one of the most serious incidents a woman was left abandoned after her guide dog was attacked in Wellingborough.

Incidents in the UK recently included:

– A guide dog with severe injuries and wounds continued his duty and led his blind owner home.

– How a guide dog that has been attacked will always remain tense and wary and it costs £50,000 to train, keep and care for the dog.

Ms Elshaw told Mr Simmonds: “If I am on my own and my dog is attacked I have no redress in law and the owner of the dog that attacks will shoot off very quickly. Even an attack with minor injuries is enormously distressing and the guide dog remains wary. These dogs are trained to disregard other dogs so they can concentrate on helping the owner.”

Mr Simmonds is also writing to ministers to support the Association’s campaign for stronger legal sanctions. It is lobbying the government so an attack on a guide dog is treated like an attack on an owner and classed as a criminal offence. It also wants tougher regulations on micro-chipping for dogs.