West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner signs agreement to support victims of assistance dog attacks (21 Sept 2015)

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, has today signed an agreement to support victims of attacks on assistance dogs. He joined with West Yorkshire Police and Guide Dogs in signing the Service Level Agreement which details how police will respond to an attack on an assistance dog - such as a guide dog.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: "When I visited the Guide Dogs Centre in Leeds it highlighted to me just how important guide dogs are and the crucial role they play in getting people out and about and leading normal lives.

5 - CopyIt is important to make sure that attacks on these specially trained dogs are not treated in the same way as dog on dog attacks. If a guide dog is attacked, it's not just the dog that suffers but the person who that dog is providing support to. We shouldn't underestimate what an impact such an attack can have and how much the people involved can be affected.

"By signing this service level agreement today we are agreeing to assist victims of these attacks and ensure they receive the best possible support."

At the event this morning attendees heard from David Quarmby, a guide dog owner, who has suffered from two attacks on his dog Mick. He told of how he was on a bus travelling home when a dog suddenly lunged forward from the back of the bus to attack Mick - it grabbed Mick around the neck and wouldn't let go. The owners of the dog got off the bus leaving their dog behind. The bus driver, on seeing what happened, went to David and Mick's assistance and grabbed the attacking dogs lead and got it off the bus. He then helped a shaken David and checked that Mick wasn't badly injured. The second attack happened when walking through town when another dog went for Mick, again grabbing him round the neck. Fortunately on both occasions Mick was not badly hurt and was able to continue as a guide dog for David. David said he'd be lost without his guide dog and he has welcomed the change to the law which sees a maximum penalty of three years for the owner of a dog that attacks an assistance dog.

Community Engagement Officer for Guide Dogs, Debbie Linford said: "The number of guide dog owners reporting attacks on their dogs is increasing.  In most cases, the cause of the attack was unprovoked and the aggressor dog was uncontrolled and off the lead.  Any dog attack is frightening but especially so for someone who is blind or partially sighted.  The relationship between an assistance dog and its owner is quite different from that of a pet dog and owner. As well as being a constant companion, a guide dog is a mobility aid which gives independence to its owner, making an attack even more distressing." 

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins said: "Protecting vulnerable victims is at the heart of everything we do and we recognise the devastating impact that an attack can have on a guide dog owner's confidence and liberty.  This initiative demonstrates the support that the Force provides to guide dog owners, particularly in the aftermath of an attack on their assistance dog. We would always encourage owners whose guide dogs have been attacked to come forward, their reports will be taken seriously and dealt with the utmost sensitivity."

Click here to read the full Service Level Agreement between the Police and Crime Commissioner, West Yorkshire Police and Guide Dogs.

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From left to right, Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, Superintendent Dave Lunn, David Quarmby with guide dog Mick, and Ben Drury - Mobility Team Manager Guide Dogs.

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