Guide dog attacks

Attacks on guides dogs... not by guide dogs.

The June 19th edition of Veterinary Record (Brooks et al 2010) contains a study that investigated the incidence and impact of 100 dog attacks on guide dogs in the UK. Here are some highlights:

  • 61% of attacks occurred while the guide dog was harnessed and working with an owner or trainer.
  • Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retriever/Flat-Coated Retriever crossbreeds were more commonly attacked than other guide dog breeds. This was disproportionate to the percentage of guide dogs that were these breeds, so it wasn't just a factor of more Labs being guide dogs so there were more to be attacked. I'm not sure why these breeds would be attacked more often.
  • Most (97%) attacks occurred in public places: 26% occurred in town centres and shopping areas, and 23% occurred in public parks or exercise areas.
  • 43% of attacks were considered unprovoked.
  • Most (61%) of attacking dogs were off-leash and with their owners. The surprising thing to me is that 23% of attacking dogs were leashed and with their owners. 15% were roaming free.
  • 38% of attacking dogs were bull breeds, which is much greater than the percentage of the general dog population that is made up of bull breeds (5.9%).
  • 41% of attacked guide dogs required veterinary care.
  • In 19% of attacks, a person was also injured.
  • After 45% of attacks, the working performance and behaviour of the attacked (guide) dog changed. Over half of these were reported to be fearful, nervous and wary, or to display a lack of confidence. Two dogs had to stop working as guide dogs.
  • The attacking dog's owner was charged in 31% of incidents.

It is clear that attacks on guide dogs can result in major problems. These include injury to the dog, injury to the handler, impacts on the performance of the dog as a guide and impacts on the emotional status of the owner. Dog bites are too common and bites from incidents like these, which occur in public places, are largely preventable with responsible ownership. Unfortunately, there are too many irresponsible dog owners out there. The threat of more serious financial penalties may be the only way to change some peoples' behaviour.

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Service Dogs of Florida - October 27, 2010 11:26 AM

Many US States have laws in place to protect service animals from interference and attacks. In most it's a criminal offense punishable by fines and/or jail time if your PET attacks a service animal.

FS 413.081 Interference with or injury to a service animal;
Interfere with working dog=misdemeanor of the second degree
Harm or Kill the dog=misdemeanor of the first degree
Intentionally harm or kill=felony of the third degree
Owners are liable for the actions of their pets in public. Restitution includes the value of the service animal, about $40,000 for most program dogs.

Patricia - October 29, 2011 3:20 AM

I find it shocking and thoroughly disconcerting to find that elected members of parliament have not taken sufficient steps to imposed heavy fines and harsh penalties to protect vulnerable members of society , and their carers, from unprovoked attacks from dogs that are out of control and clearly dangerous. These carers are dogs that have been specially trained; costing a great deal in time, effort and commitment. Yet again we see complacency and a lack of awareness on the impact such acts of aggression have on our society as a whole. Such despicable behaviour by a dog or anyone else needs to be curbed, as it is a small part of the contagion of violent and dangerous behaviour that plagues our society. any attacks on them is also an attack on human decency and not to deal with this effectively shows a failure in our system to protect the vulnerable members of our community. These dogs need to be traced and owners dealt with most severely. Tagging and compulsory insurance for dogs might reduce the amount of careless breeding and purchase of breeds that seem to be responsible for this behaviour. Breeders also should be registered and punished heavily if they do not adhere to a code of good practice. This way any dangerous dogs found roaming can be traced and owners dealt with. Costs of administering or policing these dogs could be met with a small contribution from vets when they register each dog that has been tagged and/or the insurance companies I have two dogs. They are expensive to care for properly but I waited seventeen years before I felt I could afford to own one. Is it not time to bring back dog catchers?? If dogs are tagged and chipped they will be returned or await collection, depending on their reasons for being out without supervision.

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