New initiative aims to prevent guide dog attacks in St Albans

Herts assistant Chief Constable Michelle Dunn walks with Kelley Strachan, mobility instructor and Yo

Herts assistant Chief Constable Michelle Dunn walks with Kelley Strachan, mobility instructor and Yoko the guide dog - Credit: Photo supplied

Inconsistent police support following attacks against guide dogs will be a thing of the past as a result of a new combined tri-force and charity agreement.

In mid-2013, a St Albans-based guide dog mobility team called for tougher measures against irresponsible owners who allowed their pets to attack guide dogs.

A report published at that time said 10 guide dogs were being attacked by out-of-control dogs every month.

Last Tuesday (6), a senior officer from Herts Police signed a new agreement on behalf of the local constabulary and Beds and Cambs forces, along with the charity Guide Dogs to ensure best practices are carried out consistently.

This agreement has been prompted by a beefing up of legislation introduced by the Government in May last year to offer greater protection to assistance dogs and their owners.

It is now an offence to be in charge of a dog that attacks an assistance dog - those specially trained to assist a blind, deaf or disabled person.

Herts assistant Chief Constable Michelle Dunn explained: “Prior to these changes in law it was very difficult for the police to fully evidence the impact an attack on an assistance dog had on its owner.”

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She said the forces’ new agreement “sets in stone our commitment to thoroughly investigate offences against guide dogs and fully support victims”.

As part of this, victims will have a named and contactable officer assigned to ensure a thorough investigation.

Between May 2010 and May 2013 there were 15 attacks on dogs supervised in the Park Street-based guide dog mobility team area which covers Herts, Beds and Essex.

This costs the charity tens of thousands of pounds.

Sue Rowen, engagement officer at Guide Dogs, said that before the police agreement, “we had several cases where the level of support our owners have received in the event of an attack has not been consistent.

“We would like to encourage anyone who may witness such an attack to come forward to make a statement to the police as this will help tremendously in any investigation given that victims are unable to clearly see or identify the perpetrators.”