Blind woman's plea after repeated attacks on her beloved guide dog
PUBLISHED: 10:36 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:04 03 August 2018
A blind woman who lost her lifeline when her guide dog was forced to retire early after being attacked six times has backed a campaign designed to prevent similar incidents.
Carolyn Allum, who is registered blind, was left heartbroken when black Labrador Ally had to retire at just six years old after being repeatedly targeted by other badly behaved dogs.
In one particularly brutal clash, Ally sustained a ripped ear and puncture wounds to her mouth.
Despite bravely carrying on after rehabilitation training, an attack on January 5 this year in Ipswich town centre severely compromised Ally’s confidence – with Ms Allum saying: “She became unrecognisable from the dog she had once been.”
Now Ms Allum, who has had to rely on a cane while waiting for a new dog, has backed a campaign by the charity Guide Dogs urging people to keep their canines on a lead when they see an assistance dog.
The new Take the Lead campaign is due to launch in Ipswich on Saturday, August 4 at Jollyes pet shop in Commercial Road.
Of the attacks on Ally, Ms Allum – from Claydon – said: “The impact was something I can’t even put into words.
“From that moment on, my independence had gone. I felt bereft that she had gone.
“This campaign is really about trying to make people aware of the implications of people being irresponsible with their dogs.
“It’s about trying to get people to educate them that they need to behave very differently around assistance dogs.”
Laws already exist to protect guide dog owners, as people can be prosecuted for not keeping their animals under control if they attack an assistance dog.
However Guide Dogs has called on relevant agencies in Suffolk, including police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore, to crack down on assistance dog attacks.
Guide Dogs researcher Rachel Moxon said: “Guide dogs are life-changing for those living with sight loss, helping their owners live life to the full.
“Attacks on our dogs destroy confidence and can mean a guide dog owner once again loses their freedom and independence.
“Putting your dog on a lead when you see a guide dog working, allows you to have more control over the situation.
“Even if you know your dog is well-behaved, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
Mr Passmore has called attacks on guide dogs “utterly sickening”.
He added: “I know most dog owners are quite respectful but there are a minority who are selfish.”
What the law says
The Dangerous Dogs Act 2014 states that it is a criminal offence for a dog to attack a working guide dog.
It is still classed as an attack if the dog lunges or growls aggressively. This is because under the legislation, a blind or partially sighted person is considered to be a vulnerable adult.
It is also not a defence for owners to claim that they were not with the dog at the time of the attack, charity leaders said.
Both the owner and the person looking after the dog at the time of any attack can be prosecuted.
Guide dogs cost £57,000 to train and maintain and often go into ‘fight mode’ when targeted by other badly behaved dogs.
Trainers say it is difficult to rehabilitate guide dogs after attacks.