Animal Writes
From 22 May 2005 Issue

Related Article: Guide Dogs Under Attack By Family Pets
By [email protected] 

When Your Pet Meets a Seeing Eye Dog

The Seeing Eye provides specially bred, raised, and trained Seeing Eye dogs for blind citizens of the U.S. and Canada, increasing their ability to travel independently to work, school, or anywhere they desire. But Seeing Eye dogs are not pets - they are working animals. Just as you depend on your vehicle to get you from place to place, blind people rely on their dog guides.

Uncontrolled Dogs Jeopardize the Safety of Dog Guide Teams
Did you know . . .
1. More than one-third of all dog guide teams are attacked by loose or uncontrolled dogs.
2. Even a family pet can endanger a dog guide team.

The safety of the dog guide team depends largely on a dog guide's ability to concentrate on its work. When distracted from these duties, the dog or its blind owner or both become instantly vulnerable to harm. People who are blind must face dog attacks and interference without the ability to use vision to protect themselves or their dog guides.

Dog attacks on dog guides can be devastating - some dogs die. Unprovoked attacks may make it impossible for dog guides to continue their work and can make the blind person fearful of subsequent incidents.

Attacks can result in expenses that are insurmountable - veterinary care, retraining, replacement, emotional trauma, and loss of mobility can create major setbacks for the blind person.

Even a Playful Puppy Can Interfere

Any dog, regardless of size or breed, can pose a threat to a dog guide team. People who are blind routinely experience interference, whether it be a neighbor's pet that enthusiastically runs out to greet the team, the family "guard" dog that menacingly growls and barks or circles the team as they pass its territory, or the well-meaning pet owner who brings a leashed animal over to visit the dog guide.

You Can Help! Practice Responsible Pet Ownership [Guardianship]
Dogs provide great companionship for people of all ages, but owning a pet also involves serious responsibilities. Please don't take chances with the safety of dog guide teams or other animals in your community. Practice responsible pet ownership.
1. Learn about and obey your state and local leash laws. In many states it's a criminal offense to permit your dog to attack or interfere with a dog guide.
2. Never let your pet near a dog guide, even if your dog is leashed. Dog guides are working animals and must never be distracted from their duties.
3. Alert the blind person of your dog's presence when passing by the team. A simple greeting of "Hi, I have a dog with me" is often appreciated.
4. Keep your dog under good control at all times. Using retractable leashes in populated areas and leaving your dog tied up outside unattended in a public place endanger both the dog guide team and your own dog.
5. Never allow a child or anyone unable to control your dog walk it on a leash.
6. Learn as much as possible about your family pet and its breed characteristics, especially relating to temperament.
7. Enroll your dog in obedience classes. Properly socialized and trained dogs make better pets.
8. Immunize against rabies and spay or neuter all dogs.
9. Report any loose dogs roaming about in your neighborhood to the local police and animal control offices. Unsupervised pets in unfenced yards should also be reported.
10. Offer assistance to a blind handler if you witness an attack or interference on a dog guide. If it is your dog that causes harm, take responsibility for its actions.

For more information or to learn how you can help, contact The Seeing Eye Advocacy Council at (973) 539-4425 or email [email protected].  This article also available in Spanish by emailing [email protected].  Please crosspost far and wide.

Go on to The Silence of the Dogs
Return to 22 May 2005 Issue
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