Cleveland Police has cemented the firm commitment to thoroughly investigate attacks on assistance dogs, by signing a new protocol with the Guide Dogs charity.
The force has worked closely with the charity to sign a service level agreement to ensure that the correct processes are in place and a consistent approach is undertaken across the area.
The SLA follows legislation introduced in May 2014 which offers greater protection to assistance dogs and their owners. The legislation states that it is an offence to be in charge of a dog that attacks an assistance dog, which is defined as any dog specially trained to assist a blind, deaf or disabled person.
An attack on a guide dog has implications for both the dog itself and the owner. Time without a guide dog due to injuries sustained limits the freedom of its owner who relies on working in partnership with their dog to live a full and rewarding life.
As part of the SLA, guidance will be issued to all officers in the Force, enabling them to handle any reported incidents in a consistent manner.
Police & Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “This agreement is another step in our ongoing work with Guide Dogs and forms part of the Everyone Matters project which aims to develop services that meet the differing needs of our communities. I look forward to working with the Guide Dogs charity in the future and will be taking a keen interest in the progress of the guidance to be issued to operational staff.”
Chief Constable Iain Spittal added: “Assistance dogs not only provide a vital lifeline for their owners but they are a much loved member of the family. An attack on them can have a huge emotional impact which can be devastating in the long term as it leaves owners traumatised and isolated.
“We have committed to doing all that we can to protect people with assistance dogs and will be giving guidance to our teams to ensure a consistent approach.”
Mark Burnett, Head of Mobility Services Guide Dogs North East, said: "Guide dog owners are less able to protect themselves. A sighted person will see potential danger and take evasive action, but a blind person is unable to do this.
“Guide dogs are specifically trained to ignore other dogs and to walk in straight predefined paths. They will continue on their path towards a potential aggressor dog with no perception of the risk involved.
"Apart from the devastating effect of an attack on our dogs and their owners there can also be a significant financial impact on our Charity, through veterinary bills and retraining. In the most serious cases the dog may be permanently withdrawn from service at a potential high cost to our Charity.
“It is very reassuring for our guide dog owners to know that Cleveland Police are taking dog attacks very seriously by adopting the SLA.”
Every hour, another person in the UK goes blind. When someone loses their sight, Guide Dogs is here to make sure they don't lose their freedom as well.
For further information on the charity Guide Dogs, please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk.
Posted on Friday 21st October 2016