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Visually impaired woman abused after politely asking someone to stop petting her guide dog

Written by on 21 October 2021

A man screamed at a visually impaired woman after she asked him to stop petting her guide dog.

Dr Amy Kavanagh, who has been visually impaired from birth, was paired with her guide dog Ava a year ago.

Despite Ava’s training, Dr Kavanagh said they are regularly put in dangerous situations by passers-by wanting to play with her dog.

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She shared her experiences and has recorded a video from Ava’s perspective after the Guide Dogs charity revealed figures that show 71% of guide dog owners claim their dog is distracted by strangers at least once a day.

The charity also polled the public and found 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 impacts both of them.

“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,” she said.

“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.

“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 added that she has tried to explain why people cannot pet her guide dog – but on one occasion in a cafe, a man screamed at her.

“It’s a bit entitled because really they’re putting their want to play with a dog above my boundaries,” she said.

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.”