Sunday, February 19, 2017

United Kingdom: Blind woman's guide dog 'shaken like a rag doll' in pit bull attack

UNITED KINGDOM -- A Norris Green woman has spoken of the horrific moment a Staffordshire pit bull terrier attacked her guide dog leaving her ‘ripped up’ and howling in the gutter.

Rose Hill, 55, who is registered severely sight impaired, feared two-year-old Ushi was dead after the loose dog lunged at her dog’s throat and dragged her into the road near Scargreen Avenue.

Rose had only just been partnered up with her guide dog Ushi and was on her first walk out with the two-year-old Labrador Retriever mix when the terrifying attack took place in Norris Green.

She said: “This Staffordshire [pit bull terrier] came flying out of a house and headed straight for my dog.

“I was trying to pull Ushi off but this only caused her more of an injury because the other dog had hold of her lead. Eventually I let go of the harness and the dog pulled my guide dog into the gutter.

“She was being shaken like a rag doll and was howling, while I was screaming with fear.

“Eventually some workmen and neighbors who were nearby managed to separate the two dogs by dragging the pit bull off by its hind legs.

“Ushi never even got up and at first I thought she was dead. She needed to be taken to the vets for injuries to her head and ribcage.”

Rose said: “She’s very shook up – but it was her guide dog harness that saved her. The dog bit so hard that it left teeth marks in the metal harness, but it protected Ushi and may have saved her life. Ushi didn’t fight back, she just howled, and I was screaming for help – the whole thing probably lasted less than 10 minutes, but it felt like forever.”

Rose’s husband Steve said: “We’d just like to thank all our neighbours and people that came to her rescue. They were amazing. And the young lad who lives nearby was brilliant, another one of our neighbours got there quicker than me and ran to help.”

Rose added: “She was just so lucky. If they hadn’t been there at that time, God knows what could have happened to her. People can get killed by dogs like that, they just don’t let go.

“Ushi was just left lying in the gutter and I thought, is she dead? She was pulled to bits.”

A woman later pleaded guilty to owning or being in control of a dog which was dangerously out of control and was fined £110 and ordered to pay £150 compensation, £85 costs and a £20 victim surcharge. The dog was humanely destroyed.

Rose, 57, who is registered blind, said the guide dog attack led to her moving away from Norris Green, where she had lived all her life.

She added: “There were dogs roaming around the street and I was later told by police it was the worst area for dog attacks. It just left me with a fear of going out on my own. No-one realises the impact it has on other peoples’ lives.

“What should have been one of the best days of my life when I got my independence back was taken away from me.”

Rose Hill spoke as Merseyside Police Chief Constable Andy Cooke visited the Liverpool Mobility Team’s Bradbury Centre in Dovecot to talk to guide dog owners who had been victims of dog attacks.

Both police and the mobility team have been working together since attacks on assistance dogs were recognised as a crime in changes to legislation. Under the new law, if a dog attacks a guide, or any assistance dog, offenders can now face up to a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Latest research by the Guide Dogs organisation showed that, on average, 10 guide dogs were attacked each month across the UK.

Lynette Proctor, Guide Dogs community engagement officer, said: “If a guide dog is unable to work as a result of an attack, whether temporarily or permanently, it doesn’t just have an impact on the dog but also robs their blind or partially sighted owner of their independence, often meaning they are unable to leave their own home.

“Even what might be perceived as a minor attack can have devastating and long term consequences.”

(Liverpool Echo - Feb 18, 2017)