The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association recently estimated that on average, 10 guide dogs are attacked every month in the UK. So it began to campaign several years ago for stiffer penalties in the hope that will result in owners taking more responsibility for the behavior of their pets and reduce the number of attacks.
Frank Salt, an official spokesman for the Guide Dogs Association, welcomes the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill finally being passed into law. It means a dog attack on an assistance [guide] dog could now lead to the owner of the attacking dog being sentenced to up to three years in prison and subject to unlimited fines, or both. Such attacks are now classified as an “aggravated offense.”
The new law will come into effect in May 2014 and will cover assistance dogs that are already covered by the Equality Act 2010, guide dogs, hearing dogs, epilepsy dogs, dogs which help people with physical disabilities that affect mobility, coordination and dexterity and specific dogs trained to help other disabled people, according to Rochdaleonline.com.
The new law covers all dogs that have been trained to provide assistance. The law does not state that the dogs have to be providing assistance at the time they are attacked.
The new penalties also apply to assistance dogs that are retired, but do not cover guide-dog puppies, as they will not have been trained to provide assistance. (It is currently unclear if the law covers dogs in training.)
The association says it will continue to monitor the number of the attacks once the law goes into effect.
Frank Salt, who is a guide dog user from Castleton, is concerned about enforcement. He said: “I think it is long overdue. I just hope the community police and the police in Rochdale act on the law and take is seriously.”
He added: “My dog, Lewis, was attacked about two years ago now and that is something that still affects me today… t is horrendous when you can’t see the dogs and you can just hear them. The noise is horrific. I think Lewis got over it after his stitches had healed and he was seen by the guide dogs association but it definitely still affects me.”
Source: Rochdale Online