‘It happened so fast’ - Man tells of shock at attack on his guide dog

Keith Gilding, left, with his guide dog Briony. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Keith Gilding, left, with his guide dog Briony. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

A visually impaired man from Dereham has spoken out about the horror of his guide dog being attacked by another dog.

Keith Gilding, left, with his guide dog Briony. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Keith Gilding, left, with his guide dog Briony. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Keith Gilding, 67, was on Chapel Walk with his assistance dog Briony on Tuesday, May 1, when she was attacked by another dog which was off its lead.

Mr Gilding, a retired factory worker, said: 'This dog just came from I don't know where.

'It got the whole of Briony's left ear and shook her and shook her. I jumped in the middle of them to stop him attacking her.

'He got through my legs and got her left leg.

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'A man came out and I said: 'Can you not keep your dog on the lead?' He said: 'What's that bloody got to do with you?'

'He walked off laughing. I was very upset and I'm still upset now.

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'It happened so fast I couldn't see the colour of the dog.'

Mr Gilding was paired up with Briony at Christmas 2017, and described her as 'my lifeline'.

He added: 'She's changed my life.'

Due to his visual impairment, which restricts his vision to a blurred spot in his left eye, Mr Gilding was unable to describe the man or the dog involved.

He said: 'I don't even know if there was any one else around.'

He added: 'I would like the man to come forward and apologise and I would like all dogs to go on leads. When you're in public your dog should be on a lead. I do feel uneasy when I go out, sort of unsettled when there's a dog about.'

Graham Darken, a Guide Dogs fundraiser from Dereham, said: 'He reported it to the police and was told it was the third dog attack in recent weeks in Dereham and the surrounding area. It just shows you how much this is happening.'

And fundraiser Jill Darken added: 'It's very distressing. It's a new partnership, it's his first dog, and he was really enjoying his independence.

'These attacks really need highlighting.'

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell said: 'Its so shocking because the person can't see and they can't help in any way. Its bad enough that people haven't got the gift of sight, but [the dog] is their only means of getting around.

'My heart goes out to Keith.'

Norfolk police confirmed they had investigated the incident and had no ongoing lines of inquiry.

However, anyone who witnessed the incident should report it to the police on 101.

Guide Dogs charity speak out in support

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association have spoken out in support of Keith Gilding.

Guide Dogs service delivery manager, Kerry Matthews, said: 'Dog attacks have a huge emotional impact on the dog and owner, as well as the risk of physical injury.

'It is a serious issue and has cost the charity over £1.3million since 2010.

'The latest data reveals in 2017 there were six recorded attacks on dogs supported by the Peterborough Mobility Team (PMT).'

The PMT are responsible for the welfare of guide dogs and their owners in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire.

There are around 5,000 guide dog owners in the UK, and in 2016, it cost £48.9m to run the guide dog service.

It costs Guide Dogs £56,800 to support a guide dog from birth to retirement, and £5 per day to support each working partnership.

The association is currently responsible for around 8,000 dogs.

For more information visit the Guide Dogs website.

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