New research has found that more than three guide dogs every month in the UK are being attacked by other dogs.
The research, published in the magazine Veterinary Record, found that almost two-thirds of the attacks were made on dogs that were in a harness and working with their blind or visually-impaired owner or a trainer.
More than three-fifths of the attacking dogs were off their lead at the time.
The researchers identified 100 attacks between November 2006 and April 2009. Excluding cross-breeds, almost half of the attacking dogs were bulldogs, mastiffs, bull terriers, pit bulls and Staffordshire bull terriers, even though such breeds make up just six per cent of the UK dog population.
More than two-fifths of the guide dogs needed treatment by a vet, and in a fifth of cases, either the guide dog handler or a member of the public was injured.
The performance or behaviour of nearly half of the guide dogs attacked was affected, with two dogs no longer able to continue in their work.
And in only six cases did the owner of the attacking dog apologise. In eight cases, they left without saying anything, even though many of the handlers were “shocked and distressed”, and unable to see if their dog needed treatment.
Most of the attacks took place in public places between 9am and 3pm.
The charity Guide Dogs said: “The numbers of dog attacks on guide dogs in the UK is concerning and we fear that many incidents go unreported.
“Certainly our research shows that owners do not usually report attacks to the police.
“Such incidents cause trauma to both the guide dog and its blind or partially sighted owner, often adversely affecting their partnership and therefore the person’s mobility.”
The charity said it had urged police chief constables across England and Wales to “treat all such attacks most seriously”, while dangerous dogs laws in Scotland have already been strengthened.
And in Northern Ireland “there has already been a case where an attack on a guide dog was seen as an extension of an attack on its owner”, the charity added.
Guide Dogs said aggressive dogs should be kept on a lead “and muzzled if necessary”.
18 June 2010