Sunday, April 13, 2008

Guide dog users explain their needs to law enforcement

At the "Partnerships with Law Enforcement" conference in Maryland April 12, blind and visually impaired people who have guide dogs discussed the unique situation they are in when they call 911.

"Police might be reluctant to come into a house until the dog is put away," according to The Baltimore Sun story.

Making the situation workable is two-fold: It's helpful if the blind person tells the 911 dispatcher that a guide dog will be in the home, and if the dispatcher tells the blind person the name of the police officer who will be responding to the call.

Cecilia Warren, vice president of the guide dog users group, said in The Sun that "attacks on guide dogs by other dogs are a growing problem. In some cases, the guide dogs are separated from their owners."

"Police have to understand this isn't simply a dogfight" she said. "If something happens to the guide dog, it leaves the [blind person] vulnerable."

She said police must understand the crucial role a blind person's guide dog plays. "Not only is the dog an expensive investment - at a typical cost of about $50,000 - but the dog also should never be separated from its owner," she said.

The one-day conference was part of the "Canine Partnership Series" -- the first of five sessions planned to focus on relations between blind and visually impaired people and the broader community.