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Bradford MP urged to back bill to protect guide dogs
A “worrying” rise in the number of dog attacks on guide dogs in Bradford has prompted a national charity to arrange a meeting with an MP to call for tougher laws.
Staff at Guide Dogs UK – formerly known as Guide Dogs for the Blind – will meet Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe on Monday to propose a change in the Dangerous Dogs Act, which would mean pet owners whose dogs attack guide dogs can be charged with aggravated assault.
Andrew Leon, North of England engagement manager for the charity, said he was aware of two “serious” attacks on guide dogs in the Bradford area in recent months.
And nationally, the figure has risen from about three a month to ten a month over the last two years. He said: “We want the police to have the power to treat a case where a dog on guide dog attack as aggravated assault.
“If you are blind and walking down the street with your guide dog, the first you will know about your dog being attacked is the sound of growling, snapping and the dog squealing in anguish. If the owner of the other dog isn’t there, the blind person has no help and can’t do anything and to stop the attack would put them in danger.
“It is extremely traumatic, both emotionally and psychologically. Afterwards, they may no longer have their mobility aid and feel abandoned and extremely isolated.
“But if, for example, someone attacked someone’s wheelchair and left them lying in the middle of the street, it would be unacceptable and dealt with by the police.
“We think dog-on-dog attacks should be treated the same.”
Representatives from the charity will meet Mr Sutcliffe to call for support in a number of its campaigns, including calling for audio announcements on buses and reducing street clutter.
But Mr Leon said the main issue to be discussed would be attacks on guide dogs.
He said: “When people contact the police they are told there is nothing they can do about it.
“The relationship between a blind person on their guide dog is very strong and they work in partnership and if part of that partnership is broken, it has a massive impact.”
Mr Sutcliffe said staff at the charity were going to take him on a blind-folded walk around Leeds Station with a guide dog so he could see what the experience was like.
He said: “Obviously this will highlight the situation for blind people. I do think more needs to be done to protect dogs and their owners.”