AWARENESS WEEK: Guide Dogs Queensland’s Nerida Hepple and vision-impaired man Graeme Raines with his guide dog, Levi.
AWARENESS WEEK: Guide Dogs Queensland’s Nerida Hepple and vision-impaired man Graeme Raines with his guide dog, Levi. Mike Knott BUNLEV

Taking the lead in helping guide dogs stay calm

TERRIFYING. Upsetting. Confusing.

These are the words a Bundaberg vision-impaired man has used to describe what it is like when his guide dog, Levi, has been distracted by pet dogs in the past.

Graeme Raines said he was not surprised by the findings of a Guide Dogs Australia study released today that revealed 71% of attacks on guide dogs were caused by an off-leash dog while 80% said their guide dog had been distracted by an off-leash dog.

"It is really confusing because you are walking along and all of a sudden a dog comes at you," he said.

"And, of course, your guide dog becomes emotional and then loses its concentration.

"This leaves you and your guide dog stressed out and vulnerable."

The national survey of more than 220 blind or vision-impaired guide dog handlers was released to coincide with International Guide Dog Day today and found on average three guide dogs a month were attacked in the past year.

It also found 27% of guide dogs sustained injuries from an attack, with two retired as a result of the trauma.

Guide Dogs Queensland CEO Chris Laine said it was launching a new public education campaign called Take the Lead, calling on the country's dog owners to ensure their pet dogs were always walked on a lead. "We're alarmed that so many guide dogs are being attacked by pet dogs and are appealing to dog owners to keep their pet dogs on leads when out and about," he said.

"Guide dogs play a vital role in enabling people who are blind or vision impaired to get around independently. Attacks compromise this independence and can cause serious injury and trauma to both the handler and the guide dog.

"In rare serious cases, attacks can result in premature retirement of a guide dog, which costs more than $30,000 to train."

Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman said residents were responsible for their dogs' behaviour.

"It is the responsibility of the person walking the dog to always keep it under control while in public places," he said.



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