A tri-force crackdown on attacks against guide dogs has been launched after reports up to 120 assistance animals are affected each year.
A Herts Constabulary senior officer today signed a new service level agreement about investigating crime relating to guide dogs, along with the natioanl Guide Dogs charity and neighbouring forces Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
The three teams will now work with the charity to ensure the best practices are adopted in a consistent approach across the three counties as a ‘best practice’ guide to investigating crimes involving assistance dogs.
Guide Dogs’ latest report indicates an average of 10 guide dogs are attacked a month around the UK, creating a devastating impact not only on the dog that is injured but also the owner.
According to the charity, an attack on a guide dog – which cost around £50,000 to train – can create a great deal of anxiety and reduce a blind, deaf or disabled person’s sense of safety.
In May 2014, new legislation made it an offence to be in charge of a dog that attacks an assistance dog.
Herts Asst Chief Con Michelle Dunn said: “Prior to these changes to the law, it was very difficult for the police to fully evidence the impact an attack on an assistance dog had on its owner.
“This new SLA, which I am proud to sign on behalf of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, sets in stone our commitment to thoroughly investigate offences against guide dogs and fully support the victims of such incidents by using the new legislation.
“It will also help us ensure we are following the best practice when investigating crimes against assistance dogs in general.”
“This will see us offer an enhanced level of care to owners whose assistance dogs are attacked. As part of this, a victim impact statement will always be taken to ensure the full impact an attack has on the person and their dog can be assessed.”
The new scheme will also mean all victims will be assigned a named officer to ensure they are fully updated about the case, while specialist advice and teams will also be able to assist the investigation process.
Asst Chief Con Dunn, who also completed a blindfolded walk to raise awareness of the Guide Dogs charity’s work, added: “Knowledge about attacks on assistance dogs is vital and we will be making a commitment to ensure that our staff and officers are fully trained and aware about such attacks. We will also be seeking feedback from the victims we come into contact with to ensure we are getting it consistently right and so that we can share our learning at a national level.”
Guide Dogs engagement officer Sue Rowen said of the Herts, Beds and Cambs agreement: “Previously we have had several cases where the level of support our guide dog owners have received in the event of an attack has not been consistent and we are confident that now this will be a thing of the past.
“We would like to encourage anyone who may witness such an attack to come forward to make a statement to the police as this will help tremendously in any investigation, given that the victims are unable to clearly see or identify the perpetrators.”