Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball has thrown his support behind a campaign to stop attacks on guide dogs.
Mr Ball took a walk wearing a mindfold through the streets of Warwick with Lola and her trainer, Tracey Walker from the Guide Dogs charity. Creating a vacuum of darkness around his eyes, this replicates the experience of blind people more accurately than a blindfold. It was an experience that Mr Ball, a former airline pilot, described as “more terrifying than taking a 747 into a thunderstorm”.
The Guide Dogs charity was with Ron to highlight how difficult it is for people with no or only partial sight to navigate. Attacks from out of control dogs can be devastating for guide dog users who are left alone with an injured dog. If their animal needs veterinary treatment, they are often unable to leave the home independently while the dog recovers.
“More terrifying than taking a Boeing 747 into a thunderstorm!”
Ron Ball supports the move and urges Warwickshire Police to treat dog on guide dogs seriously and come down on owners who fail to ensure that their dogs do not attack others.
He said: “Having experienced how difficult it already is to be without sight – in my case only for five minutes – I can only begin to appreciate how difficult getting around must be and how reliant blind or partially sighted people are on their dogs. It must be even more terrifying to be witness, through hearing only, to an attack by another dog.
“As we know, there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. It is the owners therefore that should face the consequences and I will be bringing this up with the Chief Constable and recommend that Warwickshire takes the lead and acts upon this change of legislation.”
Terry Smith of the Guide Dogs charity, welcomed the Police Commissioner’s support, saying: “When irresponsible owners of aggressive dogs fail to prevent attacks on guide dogs it cost us, as a charity, over £200,000 a year in veterinary bills and in the most severe cases, in having to withdraw dogs from service. This has an impact on what we are able to do for blind or partially sighted people. It is extremely positive for us that, in Warwickshire, the Police Commissioner will work with the Police to ensure that this crime is treated with the severity that its consequences merit.”
Having walked in darkness through Warwick, Ron also backed the campaign to reintroduce the crossing at Jury Street, which he feels more strongly than ever is essential for blind or partially sighted pedestrians. He said:
“As I say, walking without sight around Warwick was one of the more terrifying experiences I have had. Even with these wonderful dogs, I think that Warwick needs to do more to make its town centre more accessible to blind people.”