Animal rights activists berate blind man for having guide dog4 min read

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‘Aggressive’ animal rights activists target blind man, 30, for keeping a guide dog that they claim should be ‘running free in the fields’

  • Jonathan Attenborough, 30, from Fife, relies on his highly trained labrador Sam
  • People claiming to be animal rights activists said he shouldn’t have a guide dog
  • Claimed he was told ‘dogs should be running free in fields, not sitting in cafes’
  • In second incident at a Portsmouth bar an ‘aggressive’ woman called him ‘cruel’

Jonathan Attenborough, 30, from Newburgh, Fife, has been targeted twice by angry animal rights activists who said he was 'cruel' for having his guide dog, Sam

Jonathan Attenborough, 30, from Newburgh, Fife, has been targeted twice by angry animal rights activists who said he was ‘cruel’ for having his guide dog, Sam

A blind man was left shocked after being targeted by angry animal rights activists – because he has a guide dog.

Jonathan Attenborough, who has been totally blind for five years, relies on his ‘constant companion’, a highly trained labrador called Sam.

The 30-year-old, from Newburgh, Fife, said the guide dog had enabled him to lead a more fulfilling life since he was paired with it in April last year.

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However, after two verbal attacks from people claiming to be campaigners against animal cruelty, he has begun to worry about further abuse.

And he is not alone. Another blind man has also come forward to describe the hostility he too has faced.

Mr Attenborough said: ‘The first time it happened to me was in April this year. I was in a café in Edinburgh with Sam and a man approached me to tell me I shouldn’t have a guide dog.

‘He said dogs should be running free in the fields, not sitting in cafes. I thought he was joking at first.

‘He wasn’t particularly hostile, just looking to have a conversation, and after I explained what kind of life Sam has, he wasn’t 100 per cent [convinced] but he did seem much more open to the idea.’

The second incident, however, was more ‘aggressive’. Mr Attenborough told how he and another guide dog owner were approached by a so-called ‘animal rights activist’ in a Portsmouth bar, who called them ‘cruel’. He added: ‘She was very in our faces and made us feel very uncomfortable.

‘I was so taken aback. I tried to have a conversation with her but she didn’t listen, she just seemed to be in a rage. It got to the point her husband came over to lead her away.’ He added: ‘Now it’s very much on my radar, I wonder about it happening again and what people think.

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‘But since the subject has been in the news I have had a lot of support, which is good to see. People can’t believe that this sort of thing happens to guide dog owners.’

Mr Attenborough is convinced Sam is very happy to be his guide dog. He said: ‘Sam is always keen to come with me wherever I go.

‘He is my constant companion and gets to go on free runs off-lead just like any other dog.

Mr Attenborough said that while in Edinburgh he was approached by a man who told him dogs should be 'running free in the fields, not sitting in cafes' (file picture)

Mr Attenborough said that while in Edinburgh he was approached by a man who told him dogs should be ‘running free in the fields, not sitting in cafes’ (file picture)

‘He is never left at home by himself like some pets are. I can feel his tail wagging all the time. The bond between me and him cannot be matched.’

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A second man, who asked not to be named, told The Times he had also faced hostility.

He was matched with his first guide dog, a black labrador called Winnie, in July last year.

The man said: ‘I’ve been approached and asked why I think it’s moral for me to have a guide dog. To be honest, I think it’s completely inappropriate for anyone to feel it’s acceptable to approach people who maybe are disabled and own a guide dog or any service animal.

‘There’s so much I rely on [the guide dog] for. She has improved my confidence significantly and I have to say, with guide dogs and with Winnie particularly, I don’t think I would be here without them.’

Tim Stafford, of the charity Guide Dogs, said: ‘We are always extremely sorry to hear when a guide dog owner encounters hostility, and we will offer support in every way we can.

‘Fortunately these instances are very rare. The welfare of our dogs is absolutely paramount and they are bred and trained with great care.’

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