Backing for law against attacks on guide dogs

Elaine Mackenzie and guide dog Una. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Elaine Mackenzie and guide dog Una. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A BLIND woman whose guide dog was attacked by a bull terrier has stated her support for a government crackdown on out-of-control dogs.

Elaine Mackenzie’s two-year-old Retriever-Labrador cross, called Una, was left with puncture wounds to the chest following an attack in a Leith supermarket in October 2011.

Elaine has now been joined by charity Guide Dogs Scotland in welcoming changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act in Scotland which state that if a dangerously out-of-control dog injures an assistance dog, the offence is considered to be “aggravated” and will carry a higher minimum sentence.

The 60-year-old, from Leith, who is registered blind, told how the ordeal, which took place during a visit to Tesco in Duke Street, impacted upon both her and her dog.

No prosecution arose from the attack.

She said: “Una was viciously attacked. I can only liken the noise she made to that of a screaming child, she was in so much distress. Staff in the shop tried to pull the attacking dog away but it was relentless. Una bled a lot and had several puncture wounds. She recovered, but it took quite a long time for us both to get enough confidence to get out and about like usual.”

She now hopes that guide dogs and other assistance dogs, and their owners, will be safer as a result of the recent 
Scottish Government changes.

Following the 2011 attack, Una received veterinary treatment for her injuries, including antibiotics, while a special collar emitting calming pheromones was also prescribed.

Elaine told the Evening News at the time: “I popped in to do a bit of shopping and as I walked towards the exit I stopped to make sure I’d put everything in my bag and all of a sudden this dog, that was tied to the shopping baskets holder, just flew at us.

“If that attack had been any worse Una may not have been able to work again and my mobility would be gone. Una is still suffering after-effects from the attack and is hesitant about going into Tesco.”

The bull terrier had pierced Una’s chest and neck.

Wendy Rankin, Guide Dogs Scotland regional director, said of the new changes in the law: “This is a welcome addition to the measures that the Scottish Government has put in place to encourage responsible dog ownership.

“Guide Dogs Scotland invests time and effort in understanding the potential factors behind dangerous dog incidents. As a charity, we can only do so much and so we look towards politicians, police, and the judiciary to help us guard the safety, health, wellbeing and independence of guide dog owners and their dogs.”

COSTLY AGGRESSION

Between 2011 and 2013, there were 27 attacks on guide dogs in Scotland.

Just under half of these attacks involved an injury to the dog, but the psychological damage incurred as a result of an attack can be as debilitating as a physical injury.

Some of these injuries incurred vet bills, which were paid for by Guide Dogs Scotland.

Some guide dogs were unable to work for their owner for a period of time, resulting in that owner being deprived of independent mobility.There have been instances of guide dogs being prematurely retired as a result of dog attacks.

In Scotland, there are around 530 guide dog owners. Each guide dog costs on average £50,000 to train and support through its working life, and the service is funded entirely through public generosity.

A recent report on guide dog attacks suggests most incidents were unprovoked and where the aggressive dog was uncontrolled and off the lead.