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Charity concerned over rise in attacks on South West guide dogs

By marcprosser  |  Posted: February 16, 2013

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The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has said that it is greatly concerned by the steady rise in the number of dog attacks on guide dogs in Devon and Cornwall.

The attacks often have a devastating impact on both dogs and people, and have in several cases led to the guide dogs not being able to work again.

"We are deeply concerned over the rise in the number of attacks," a spokeswoman for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said.

In most cases the attacks have been unprovoked, and the aggressor dog has been uncontrolled and off the lead.

Figures from the The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association show that three attacks were reported in the South West in 2011, jumping to five in 2012, and so far there have already been reports of two attacks in 2013.

The charity said that the national number of reported attacks on guide dogs has jumped from three a month to more than eight dog attacks a month within a 24 month period from June 2010 to May 2012.

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, which helps train and supply guide gods to the blind and partially sighted, said the reports are likely to represent the tip of the iceberg, as many attacks go unreported.

The charity is voicing its concerns after a recent attack on a guide dog in the Torbay area. The dog, Wag, and owner Robert Boon, who is registered as blind, were attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier.

Mr Boon told the BBC about the attack.

"I saw the Staffie run towards my dog, heading straight towards her head," he said.

He pulled Wag out of the way, but in doing so ended up in the middle of the road. Mr Boon was helped back to safety by passers-by and said that two men retrieved the Staffordshire bull terrier and left the scene, laughing at what had happened.

Lasting damage

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said that dog attacks often have a devastating impact on both the people and dogs involved. Recently, three guide dogs have been permanently withdrawn from working with the blind or partially sighted after attacks, and two others are currently being assessed to see if they are able to continue working.

The other major impact is that blind and partially sighted people are left without a guide dog, their mobility aid, and become housebound until they can be matched with a suitable dog.

According to the charity's figures, it costs about £50,000 to train and support a guide dog throughout its life.

However, Mr Boon said that it would be impossible to put a price on what Wag meant to him.

"People don't realise how important guide dogs are. She's absolutely unbelievably important to day-to-day life. She's given me my independence," he told the BBC.

"She's like a child to me and she's my life."

"If she was seriously hurt she couldn't work again. One incident could have been the end for her as a guide dog."

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