Guide Dogs Are Increasingly Attacked By Other Dogs, Study Finds

The study shows that attacks have risen substantially in the last five years.

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A guide dog leading his charge away from a plane. Via The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)/Facebook
A guide dog leading his charge away from a plane. Via The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)/Facebook
Cari Jorgensen

Guide dogs are an ever-important part of the lives of those who need them. They serve as the eyes of their humans. And sometimes they even risk their own lives to protect their owners. These dogs often wear little vests asking for space or to not be pet. However, there are times when those requests go unheeded.

The United Kingdom has seen an increase in reported dog attacks (defined as “when a dog sets upon another dog in a forceful, violent, hostile or aggressive way, involving physical conduct”) on guide dogs over the last five years, according to a study reported on by Phys.org. Using data gleaned from the charity organization Guide Dogs (every guide dog in the United Kingdom is supported by this charity), researchers from Guide Dogs and the University of Nottingham took a close look at the characteristics of these attacks, what impact the attacks had on the dog and the owner and the financial implications the charity faced due to the attacks, according to Phys.org.

Characteristics Of The Attacks

The study, published in the journal Veterinary Record, found that of the 4,900 working guide dogs in the United Kingdom, there were 629 reported attacks between 2010 and 2015. Of those attacks, 97 percent happened in public, 55 percent of the dogs who were attacked were wearing a harness and 77 percent of the aggressive dogs’ owners were present during the attack, according to Phys.org. In 2010, the average was three attacks per month. By 2015, that number had risen to 11 attacks per month.

“The guide dog harness is designed to be visible and should have been apparent to the owners of aggressors who were present,” the study’s authors stated, according to Phys.org. “It is feasible that a proportion of these attacks could have been avoided if the aggressor was put on a lead when the owner saw the guide dog in harness.”

The study found that 19 percent of the attacks were described as unprovoked, 22 percent as being caused by the aggressor dog and 29 percent caused by a lack of control, according to Phys.org. It is unclear how the remaining 30 percent of attacks were classified.
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A guide dog on duty in the U.K. Via The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)/Facebook

A guide dog on duty in the U.K. Via The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)/Facebook

Impacts Of The Attacks

Of the dogs who were attacked, 20 of them were permanently removed from the Guide Dogs program as a result of the attacks, 40 percent of them experienced a negative impact and less than 20 percent of them couldn’t work for a period of time, Phys.org reports. The attacks resulted in puncture wounds to the guide dogs, and 76 percent of the dogs received veterinary care.

The dogs, however, were not the only ones that suffered injuries. Physical injuries were present in 13.8 percent of owners, almost half of which needed medical attention. Guide dog owners also experienced anxiety and reported feeling shaken and upset.

The Guide Dogs organization itself also suffered a setback as a result of the attacks. The organization had to pay out around $50,044 USD (£34,514.30) in veterinary costs. Because 13 guide dogs were removed from the program due to the attacks, Guide Dogs also experienced a financial setback of $869,970 (£600,000), according to Phys.org.
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An owner is led by her guide dog on U.K. street. Via The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)/Facebook

An owner is led by her guide dog on U.K. street. Via The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)/Facebook

The study does not reveal if the increase is reflective of more reports made of the attacks or of an actual increase in attacks. However, it does conclude that the impact “for the guide dog owners of these dogs are likely to be long-term and complex affecting not only their mobility and physical health, but also their social and emotional well-being.”

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  • Your article only discusses guide dog attacks. My miniature schnauzer (Bella) was still a pup when our german shepherd (Mya) mauled her in our back yard. They had been together for almost one year. I always had a feeling something was wrong because Bella would come running in the house (through the doggie door) and always looked behind her to see where Mya was. One day I saw Mya pick Bella up and shake her. I mentioned it to my husband and he scoffed it off as playing. It really frightened me. Then one day at work I received a call from our neighbor that something was happening in our back yard, and he stood over the fence with a bb gun pointed at Mya to keep her away from Bella. I drove the 45-minutes home and found blood and skin along the privacy fence and found Bella hid all the way back in the large igloo. I didn’t even look at her but scooped her up in a towel and took her to our local vet. We live in a small town, and I really didn’t know where to go. This vet saved Bella’s life. This incident happened on a Friday afternoon, and thank God the vet stayed to work on Bella. She stayed in the animal hospital over the weekend. I found a good home for Mya where there was an alpha male Labrador that was our neighbor where we lived before moving to our new house. Mya and this male dog got along, and I felt Mya needed an alpha male. I don’t know where i the yard the attack started, but four years later Bella will not go to her potty area unless my husband or I go with her. I am happy that the attack did not change Bella’s sweet personality. She loves people, and she loves all dogs, but when we take her to the dog park, she does not get the playing that dogs do, and it makes her uncomfortable. Bella did change after the attack; she doesn’t let us pick her up-she will run from us.

    Paula June 22, 2016 8:26 am Reply

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