The common and increasing frequency of reported dog attacks on UK guide dogs has alarmed the charity behind the scheme for the vision impaired.
A total of 629 attacks on guide dogs by other dogs were reported between June 2010 and February 2015, a significant proportion of the approximately 4900 animals currently trained and allocated by the Guide Dogs charity.
The organisation paired up with researchers from the University of Nottingham to analyse these attacks, and discovered the number of reported attacks were growing.
Guide Dogs campaigns manager, James White, told OT that any attack on their working animals was: “hugely concerning for our organisation.”
In 2010, an average of three attacks were reported per month, but this had skyrocketed to 11 per month in 2015. The researchers could not rule out whether the higher numbers reflected a real trend or a higher level of reporting, however.
Despite this, Guide Dogs is calling for dog owners to respond appropriately when they are out with their pet and see a guide dog.
“The majority of dog owners in the UK are responsible, but if people are aware of guide dogs in the vicinity, simple steps like putting your dog back on the leash, for example, are the sorts of measures you can undertake,” Mr White said.
Three-quarters of all guide dogs needed veterinary care after being attacked, with treatment bills totalling more than £34,000. Furthermore, 20 dogs had to be permanently withdrawn from the initiative. Thirteen of these animals were fully qualified, costing Guide Dogs more than £600,000.
The findings, published this week in Veterinary Record, also noted that in 9% of attacks, a guide dog owner was also hurt in the attacks.
Mr White said the attacks were frightening for the owners in the moment, and carried a long-term emotional toll as well.
Image credit: Flickr/Smerikal