Guide dogs attacked in Devon

The attacks have left owners traumatised and some of the animals unable to work Photo: PA

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association says it has a serious problem with attacks by other dogs on both guide dogs and their owners.

Robert Boon was near his home in Torquay when he had to stop a Staffordshire Cross terrier attacking his guide dog, Wag.

He told us: "I actually felt the dog's teeth running across my hand. Straight away the owner came up for his dog and then they had to carry on up the road with the dog, laughing their heads off, thinking it was so funny."

We spoke to a dozen other owners who have had similar experiences. June Dobbin was bitten and her previous dog had to be retired after an attack by a Rottweiler tied up outside a shop in the town centre.

She says: "Something I never thought I would see, she went for another guide dog, and then that's when she had to be retired. It broke my heart, it really did. You know it costs fifty thousand pounds to train these dogs, and there was all that money just down the drain."

Wes Salisbury's previous dog Freddie was unable to work after a series of incidents in Paignton.

He agrees with June: "Fifty thousand pounds wasted, and just because these people cannot be bothered to leave their dogs at home and take them for a proper walk out of the town, and leave us the town free to walk around. We use our dogs to see our way about, not to get tangled up with all these vicious dogs, and they are vicious some of them. And they just laugh it off some of them, they think it's funny."

Guide Dogs for the Blind say they're getting reports of eight attacks a month on average. Torbay and Plymouth appear to be trouble spots.

Rose Hewitt says, "Paignton is one of the worst areas in the country. It's unbelievable how many attacks we get. And the heartache of losing your dog just because another dog attacks is horrendous."

Guide Dogs for the Blind are supporting new legislation coming in about all dogs having to have microchips, but they're saying that doesn't go nearly far enough. They need much tougher penalties for owners who don't keep their dogs under proper control.

Neil Rowe is from Guide Dogs for the Blind: "We're hoping the police will take the problem more seriously so that they regard an attack on a guide dog as an attack on the person and if it was regarded more seriously by the police that would certainly help."

It might wipe the smile from those owners who think it's funny to traumatise blind people and their dogs.