Attacks against guide dogs have owners offering warnings

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BOUNTIFUL -- Two recent dog-on-dog attacks against guide dogs in Utah are prompting the dogs' owners to caution people to be careful. The attacks left dogs in Weber County and Davis County unnerved and with injuries.

"You need to be really careful with them because you don't ever know when it could be a guide dog, it could be someone else's dog, it could be a small child," said Brad Badger of Bountiful.

Badger was walking along 200 West near 1200 North Saturday morning with Sanborn, his guide dog of 7 years, when two dogs got loose from a nearby property. Sanborn said one of the dogs, a pit bull, attacked Sanborn.

The pit bull's owner, according to Badger, quickly rushed to the scuffle and pried his dog away. Sanborn suffered three puncture wounds to his ear.

"That's the concern, is after an occurrence like this they could be psychologically rattled," Badger said. "But he seems to be doing fine."

He is urging other dog owners to stay on top of their pets, particularly when the animals are aggressive.

Patti Ehle of Ogden is offering additional advice regarding keeping pets at a significant distance from service animals when they are in sight.

On Mar. 25, Ehle was on 29th Street near the east bench when a couple passing dogs bit into her guide dog, Sonoma. The golden retriever subsequently started secreting from the neck and has suffered infections and a rash. Ehle said Thursday her dog has only been well enough to guide her on four occasions since the attack.

"This is really impactful on many levels," Ehle said.

Patty Mueller is a long-time guide dog owner based in Riverton and is now an advocate who has started "Greatest Paws on Earth"--what she describes as an "alumni" chapter of guide dog owners in the state. Mueller said many times guide dogs suffer severe enough physical and psychological damage and they have to be retired.

Fully training a new guide dog is costly both in terms of time and money. Mueller said the two years of training runs in the $50,000-$80,000 range. Costs are often offset to varying degrees by charitable donations. Even so, the toll on the guide dog user is often significant.

"When the dog gets taken out by a dog attack - if they get hurt or injured - then it takes them time to heal, so that puts the person, the user, out of commission for a while."

Badger said Sanborn assists him as he walks his son to school, or as he walks to the gym, or goes for a bagel, or completes countless other tasks.

"He's pretty much my vehicle to get where I need to go once I leave the house," Badger said. "Without him I'm not as easily able to go and function."

In Sanborn's case, Davis County Animal Services director Clint Thacker confirmed the pit bull's owner was handed a notice of violation for no license and no rabies shot. The owner, according to investigators, was not cited for the dog-on-service dog attack because of his actions following the ordeal.

Badger said he was very pleased with how the owner reacted. He said he expressed remorse for his dog's attack and has offered to pay for all medical expenses for Sanborn.

Ehle said she filed a police report related to her dog's attack. She said she did not get the owner's name and does not know where he went.

There are laws designed specifically to protect service animals. To be covered under the law, a service animal must be trained or be in training to assist a person with disabilities. A person who or whose pet chases or harasses a service animal can be charged with a class B misdemeanor.

That charge is moved to a class A misdemeanor if you or your pet knowingly, intentionally or recklessly cause injury or death to a service animal.If convicted, the penalty is up to a year in jail and restitution - which could include replacing the animal and vet costs.


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