Guide dogs charity: 'Get tough on irresponsible owners'

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Media captionAttacks on guide dogs by other dogs have spiralled in recent years prompting calls from the Guide Dog Association for stronger action

Guide dog owner Richard Wise is terrified his dog will be attacked for a second time.

The last time, he said the pair were walking to the post office when a dog "just locked on to Scrumpy, under his neck and it seemed an eternity."

Mr Wise, of Coventry, said: "Whenever I go out, or particularly into the city centre, I'm living permanently with the fear of being attacked, the knock-on effect of that is affecting my mobility."

Such attacks are not necessarily a criminal offence and it can be difficult to bring prosecutions.

The charity Guide Dogs is calling for a change in the law so that the authorities have more power to prosecute the owners of dogs involved in attacks.

The organisation has recorded more than 180 attacks since 2010.

'Attack on person'

Last year, six guide dogs, which cost about £50,000 to train, were forced to retire because of the physical and psychological damage suffered.

Image caption Richard Wise's dog Scrumpy was attacked in Coventry city centre

The charity's Graham Kensett said he was "absolutely shocked and appalled" at "irresponsible" owners not controlling their dogs.

He said: "These attacks not only cause physical scarring where dogs are concerned, but also psychological scarring.

"Whilst their dogs are not working, the guide dog owners can't go out, they can't work the dogs, they're not independently mobile. In fact they're close to being prisoners in their own home.

"We'd like to see changes to the law to allow authorities to treat attacks on assistance dogs like an attack on a person.

"We'd like the police to be proactive, to be able to press charges where dangerous dogs which are out of control attack guide dogs or assistance dogs."

The charity says the problem is that attacks on guide dogs mostly fall outside the law because dog-on-dog attacks are not often prosecuted.

It argues the effect of such attacks can be devastating for owners who rely on the dogs, as well as the animals themselves.

The attacks are happening across the country.

Margaret Fletcher's dog Molly was unable to work for a week after an attack at a bus stop in Norwich city centre.

Peter Neeley, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was on holiday when a pitbull-type dog locked on to his dog's neck.

'Punching dog'

The guide dog belonging to Gemma Brown, from Southampton, has suffered six attacks, the worst of which was outside a coffee shop.

Ms Brown, who has limited sight, tried to intervene, but the aggressor "grabbed Gus [her guide dog] by the throat."

She said: "The owners of the dog couldn't get their dog to let go.

"They couldn't get it back under control, so they started punching their dog in the head to try and get it to let go. Then in the process then punched Gus in the head several times."

PC Keith Evans, from West Midlands Police, said: "We will use the legislation that we currently have, and any further legislation, to bring these people to task and ensure that people have the trust and confidence in the police."

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