A visually impaired woman has told how she was “screamed at” by a man after she politely asked him to stop petting her guide dog.
Dr Amy Kavanagh, who has been visually impaired from birth, was paired up with her guide dog Ava a year ago.
Despite Ava’s training and willingness to work hard, Dr Kavanagh said the pair are often put into dangerous situations by passers-by wanting to fuss over the dog.
She shared her experiences and has even recorded a video from Ava’s point of view after Guide Dogs revealed figures that show 71% of guide dog owners claim their dog is distracted by strangers at least once a day and 24% said it happens at least once a week.
Guide Dogs then polled the public and found that three in 10 Britons admit they have stopped and distracted a guide dog while it was working.
Dr Kavanagh said Ava gets distracted “pretty much every time” the pair are out, and it has an impact on both of them.
She said: “People will try and pet her or whistle at her while she is working and it can be confusing for me because she is my eyes.
“If she stops and does a different movement, I can think it’s because of a hazard like a set of steps or a car on the pavement and it can be really stressful or frightening.”
Dr Kavanagh said sometimes Ava can also be distressed and can lose focus after being approached by members of the public.
She said: “Her body language changes and she usually loves her job and loves being in busy places, but one example where it happened, she had a little cry because she was distracted. Sometimes she has been really distressed after.
“I had a woman pet her earlier this week just as Ava was showing me where the gap was at a train platform. That is the real risk and not to sound dramatic but we could die. She could be stopping me walking out in front of cars or falling down the stairs.”
Dr Kavanagh said she does try to explain to people why they cannot pet Ava while she is working, and said that on one occasion in a cafe, a man screamed at her.
She said: “It’s a bit entitled because really they’re putting their want to play with a dog above my boundaries.”
Dr Kavanagh said sometimes it comes from a place of kindness, as people think Ava is just always working, but she does get time off.
She said: “She’s my baby. She doesn’t usually work more than three hours a day and she has toys and treats and we go for off-lead walks and I take my cane and she can play. People don’t understand that she’s not working 24/7.”
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