Animal Rights Extremists Verbally Abuse Blind Men for Having Guide Dogs

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: A guide dog is seen wearing Wolverhampton Wanderers merchandise prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City at Molineux on April 15, 2018 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Animal rights extremists have verbally abused blind people for having guide dogs, claiming the labradors should be “running free in the fields”.

Blind men have told SVT this week how strangers have confronted them while they were out with their assistance animals.

Fife-native Jonathan Attenborough, who lost his sight five years ago, told the Scottish broadcaster that he was verbally attacked twice while out with his “constant companion” Sam.

“An incident in a hotel bar in Portsmouth was very aggressive,” the 30-year-old said. “A woman approached myself and my friend, another guide dog owner, to tell us she was an animal rights activist and we were cruel. She was very in our faces and made us feel very uncomfortable.

“I was so taken aback. I tried to have a conversation with her but she didn’t listen. She just seemed to be in a rage.”

He and the fellow guide dog owner, Dr Amit Patel, had just attended the Animal Star Awards, at which Dr Patel had given out the first award and spoken about the abuse guide-dog owners suffer.

Dr Patel, who had detailed the same story to UNILAD late last month, said the woman had suggested that he and Mr Attenborough were as bad as people who organise dog fights.

Dr Patel told the news website: “You could hear bar stools kind of moving as she started talking, people coming over to give us assistance. But the people who were in the bar were the people who were in the awards, who’d actually heard me speak about this.

“So for a few seconds, I think people actually thought, ‘oh he spoke about this just recently’, and people actually approached me afterwards and said ‘we’d never heard about this, we never realised that this was an issue’.”

He added that “it’s only in the last six to nine months that it’s actually got worse”. He explained that since sharing his experience, other guide dog owners, as well as those who own medical detection and hearing dogs, have also received abuse from animal rights extremists.

Mr Attenborough told of another incident in a café in Edinburgh when a man told him he “shouldn’t have a guide dog”.

“He said dogs should be running free in the fields. I thought he was joking at first,” he said.

Mr Attenborough said the incidents have made him aware that another attack could happen again, saying: “Now it’s very much on my radar, I wonder about it happening again and what people think.”

While fellow Scot Robert Meikle, from Glasgow, has also had a run-in with an animal rights activist who objected to him having an assistance dog which allows him to live a full and normal life.

Mr Meikle told SVT that in July 2018, an activist approached him and his three-year-old black lab Winnie and asked the 23-year-old “why I think it’s moral for me to have a guide dog”.

“There’s so much I rely on Winnie for. She’s improved my confidence significantly and I have to say, with guide dogs and with Winnie particularly, I don’t think I would be here without them,” he said.

Tim Stafford, from the charity Guide Dogs, told the Daily Mail on Thursday: “We are always extremely sorry to hear when a guide dog owner encounters hostility, and we will offer support in every way we can.

“Fortunately, these instances are very rare. The welfare of our dogs is absolutely paramount and they are bred and trained with great care.”

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