Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is urging the public to keep their pet dogs on leads and under control after a second guide dog was attacked, and in this case injured, by uncontrolled pet dogs in as many months.

The attacked happened in the Sydney suburb of Ryde on Friday 27 April as the guide dog, called Deena, was guiding her owner Penny to her home from the bus. The pair was returning from Chatswood where Penny works as an accounts assistant for St Vincent de Paul.

While Penny couldn’t see the attack well due to her vision being impaired by a degenerative condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, she says it was very traumatising and that witnesses provided her with the details.

“As we’d turned into my street I heard a woman’s voice and the next thing I knew Deena was being attacked. It happened so quickly, so it was a blur to me,” said Penny. “I began calling out for someone to get the dogs off Deena but there was no response and the dogs got more aggressive. I was quite frantic.

“Eventually someone got the dogs off Deena. A witness said Deena was bleeding from the neck and leg and they helped me take her to the vet. As well as puncture wounds from the attacking dogs, Deena had scraped the skin off one of her paws, which was very painful for her.”

Penny learnt from the witness that the attacking dogs had escaped from the side gate of a house on her street. The owner of the attacking dogs has since been fined by the local council.

“I was very angry about the attack and how aggressive the dogs were, but I’m pleased that the owner has taken action to put in better gates so the dogs won’t escape again,” said Penny.

“Deena is only young. She’s my first guide dog and she has literally changed my life, so I couldn’t imagine having to retire her as a result of this incident. I have issues with feeling isolated because I also have a hearing impairment, for which I wear hearing aids. Deena has changed everything, not just because she guides me around safely, but because she breaks the ice with people and they talk to me when they see us.”

Deena has been assessed by a guide dog trainer and Penny is having to spend a lot of time encouraging her to not be afraid of the area where the attack happened.

Frances Tinsley, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s Client Services Executive Manager, said attacks from uncontrolled pet dogs was one of the leading causes of guide dogs having to be retired prematurely, at a big cost to the owner and the organisation.

“What happened to Penny and Deena was very serious,” said Ms Tinsley. “Guide dogs play a very special role in assisting people with vision loss to be independent. At $30,000 to raise and train a guide dog, premature retirement is a huge loss.

“Sydneysiders need to take care and keep pet dogs on-lead and under control so this doesn’t happen again.”

While this is the first time Penny has experienced her guide dog being attacked by another dog, it is a universal problem as evidenced by recent surveys in Australia and the UK:

• A Guide Dogs NSW/ACT survey in 2010 found that nine out of 10 guide dog users have said their guide dog had been harassed or distracted by “off-lead” pet dogs in the previous year
• A study by The Veterinary Record study reported that in the UK more than three guide dogs on average are being attacked per month, with nearly two thirds of the attacking dogs being off their lead at the time.

The public is also reminded to not pat, talk to or feed a working guide dog.

For more information about guide dog etiquette, see below tips or visit


Media: Please contact Sally Edgar, on 0413 753 241 or [email protected]

1. ’Incidence and impact of dog attacks on guide dogs in the UK’, The Veterinary Record 166:778-781 (2010)
2. Sweeney research: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT 2010 Client Survey

Guide Dog Etiquette

When you are in the company of a person who has a guide dog, remember the following etiquette tips:

Please do not:

• Pat the guide dog
• Feed the guide dog
• Distract the guide dog
• Make the guide dog the centre of attention
• Permit your pet dog to roam free, be loose or uncontrolled

All these actions may cause the guide dog to lose concentration, and put the person relying on its guidance at risk.

The working guide dog should:

• Be well behaved at all times
• Be quiet and settled when not working
• Respond to a physical or vocal correction to maintain its concentration
• Not beg or drool when in the presence of people eating
• Not chew furniture or inappropriate items
• Be kept clean, groomed and free of any offensive odour

The guide dog user has been trained in the most appropriate techniques for working, or correcting the guide dog. Please only provide assistance if requested by the guide dog user.

If offering guiding assistance, approach the person using the guide dog on the opposite side to his/her guide dog.

According to government legislation, any person with a guide dog is allowed to enter all public places.

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Contact Profile

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has been assisting people who are blind or vision impaired to be independent for 55 years.

The organisation offers a range of free services to suit people with different levels of vision impairment.

Services include provision of and training in how to use guide dogs, long canes, electronic travel aids and their remaining vision to be able to get around safely, confidently and independently.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives no government funding, relying on the generosity and support of the community to provide its services.
Sally Edgar
P: 02 9412 9303
M: 0413753241


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