Dog attacks and aggressive interference from other dogs have always been dangers for guide dog teams, but an accurate estimate of their frequency and just how many guide dog handlers experience attacks, has been relatively unknown.
This month, The Seeing Eye will conclude a survey that will be used to identify the percentage of guide dog handlers who experience attacks and aggressive interference and the circumstances that lead to these attacks.
PHOTO recent litter of puppies born at Seeing Eye campus
It is our hope that sharing the results will open the door to greater communication about the need for responsible dog ownership on the part of the pet owning public, and more vigilance and diligence on the part of legislators, animal control officers and the police. The data will be used to educate the public on the dangers of dog attacks and aggressive interference, and to recommend ways these dangerous encounters can be prevented.
Starting with its home state of New Jersey, The Seeing Eye also hopes to foster increased protection for guide dog teams by supporting the passage of legislation that will penalize irresponsible dog owners and afford greater support for victims of dog attacks. New Jersey Assembly Bill 832 and its companion, Senate Bill 1154, make it a criminal offense for a person to harm a guide dog and increase the penalties for harming police dogs and search and rescue dogs. Assembly Bill 3226, also called “Dusty’s Law,” seeks to penalize dog owners who allow their dogs to attack a guide dog or dog in training.
The bill was introduced after Seeing Eye puppy raiser Roger Woodhour and a German shepherd puppy named Dusty were attacked and severely injured near their New Jersey home. Dusty was unable to continue in the program, despite the efforts of The Seeing Eye’s training department and the Woodhours to help Dusty overcome his anxiety after the attack. Roger lost a finger tip and continues to have trouble with the nerves in his hand. Even in cases where the handler and dog are not hurt, the psychological aftermath often takes its toll, sometimes by preventing guide dogs from continuing their work.
Please visit The Seeing Eye’s advocacy section on the web atwww.SeeingEye.org/protect to learn more about guide dog protection laws that are currently on the books in the United States and to download educational materials for use in your community.