Council takes the lead on assistance dog attacks

St Helens Council is preparing to take a lead role in the defence of
assistance dogs and their owners – in the face of increasing numbers of
attacks by other dogs.

The Dangerous Dogs Act was last year extended to cover attacks by dogs on assistance dogs – giving them the same protection as people. Previously this type of incident could only be dealt with under the Dog Act 1871.

The changes mean that it will now be a criminal offence to allow a dog to
attack an assistance or guide dog.

But even with tougher penalties in place, guide dog owners still face
danger from stray or out of control dogs.

So next month St Helens Council Dog Welfare and Enforcement Officers will be unveiling a new tool that will be made available to guide dog owners in the borough – an oil of cloves spray which, while completely harmless, can often act as a dog repellent.

St Helens is believed to be the first authority in the North West – and one
of the first in the country – to take such decisive action.

St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Neighbourhoods, Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron said: “The effects of an attack on an assistance dog can be devastating – for both pet and owner. Both are likely to be traumatised – and in many cases the dog is unable to work again, which effectively wastes £20,000 worth of training and leaves the owner frightened and housebound.”

Dog Welfare Supervisor Pauline Stone added: “The aerosol is not CS gas or a pepper spray but it should deter an attacking dog – and give a visually
impaired person and their dog those vital extra seconds in which to get
themselves away from the situation or summon help.”

Every guide and assistance dog owner in the borough is being invited to
attend a special event at the Centurion Centre, St Mark’s Church, North
Road, St Helens on Friday 20 March. They will be presented with the new
spray and be able to meet representatives from the council’s Dog Welfare
and Enforcement Team, Guide Dogs UK, The Dogs Trust and other assistance dog agencies.

Guest Speakers include Trevor Cooper, a dog law specialist, and Penny
Williams from Guide Dogs UK.