Training on guide dog attacks for Suffolk Police

5 February 2019, 07:39 | Updated: 5 February 2019, 08:14

Guide Dog

Suffolk police officers are going to be offered training to help them better understand the impact that attacks on guide dogs can have on their owners.

The charity Guide Dogs has won a grant from the county's police and crime commissioner so it can deliver the training.

If successful, it could be rolled out nationally.

"This gives great reassurance to all assistance dog owners," Emma Free, whose guide dog was attacked four times in 18 months in Ipswich, told Heart.

"Officers dealing with reports {will} have a full understanding of the immense impact these nasty incidents have on us as victims."

Emma says other dog owners need a better understanding too.

"Their dogs must be under control. If they are not responsible dog owners the law is in place and they will be prosecuted.

"If they're not responsible, their dogs can cause life-changing long-term problems for assistance dog owners."

Guide Dogs campaigned for change to the Dangerous Dogs Act and amendments were made by the Government in 2014. The amendments now state "if a dog attacks an assistance dog it is classed as an attack on the person" and carries a prison sentence of up to 3 years. 

James White, Guide Dogs Campaigns Manager, said: "Attacks on guide dogs are extremely distressing for their owners. Not only is the attack itself traumatic, but if the dog has to stop working, then the owner may find it impossible to leave home on their own. 

"We welcome the commitment of Police Forces like Suffolk to ensure their staff know how to respond when an attack on an assistance dog is reported."

Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, added: "My admiration and affection for guide dogs goes back many years. The incredible bond between the dogs and their owners never ceases to amaze me - the value of the independence given to their owners because of these wonderful animals is quite frankly priceless. 

"It is deeply disturbing that irresponsible dog owners are allowing their pets to attack these guide dogs who make such a valuable contribution to our county. So, I really hope this grant will make a huge contribution to dealing with and preventing such contemptible attacks in the future."

Rachel Moxon, Guide Dogs Canine Research Associate, said: "Over the last 12 months we have seen 11 dog attacks in Suffolk and 145 attacks nationally. 

"Two guide dogs have been withdrawn early with estimated costs of £52,509 to Guide Dogs and 6.5 years of working years lost."

Suffolk's Police Dog Handler and Dog Legislation Officer, Emma Grosvenor, said: "Police Officers have to be able to deal with a wide spectrum of crime and legislation. By giving officers the knowledge regarding this legislation they will be able to gather detailed evidence for court, to aid better prosecution and help to reduce the number of attacks."