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Guide dog owner felt like she was in ‘horror film’ after dog attacked

PUBLISHED: 14:57 09 October 2018

Emma Free's dog, Ivy at an event at Sailmakers Supermarket. Picture: WARREN PAGE

Emma Free's dog, Ivy at an event at Sailmakers Supermarket. Picture: WARREN PAGE

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A mum-of-two whose guide dog has been the victim of four separate attacks in the space of just 18 months has likened each traumatic ordeal to being trapped in a horror film.

East and Mid-Suffolk Guide Dogs for the Blind are meeting in the Sailmakers Shopping Centre on Thursday and Friday. Picture: WARREN PAGEEast and Mid-Suffolk Guide Dogs for the Blind are meeting in the Sailmakers Shopping Centre on Thursday and Friday. Picture: WARREN PAGE

Emma Free, who has severe sight loss due to a degenerative disorder known as retinitis pigmentosa, says her guide dog Ivy has been on the receiving end of four attacks between March 2017 and as recent as August this year while she was walking to and from town.

Each time the Labrador cross Golden Retriever has undergone treatment at the vets for bruising, soreness and ripped fur to her legs, back and neck.

Mrs Free, whose condition affects around 1 in 4,000 people, said: “I’ve experienced attacks with both my retired dog Jazz and my current dog Ivy due to pet dog owners being irresponsible and not having control of them.

“It’s a horrible, traumatic situation because you don’t know what’s going on or what damage an aggressive dog has done.

The pups met with their owners to get involved in the Take the lead campaign. Picture: WARREN PAGEThe pups met with their owners to get involved in the Take the lead campaign. Picture: WARREN PAGE

“You’re relying on members of the public to step in and let you know if there is blood or injury.

“When it’s happening you feel like you’re stuck in a horror movie. You’re spun around for what feels like an eternity.

“I have had to live with the emotional scars of the attacks. I get flash backs of what it was like.”

Mrs free, who lives in Ipswich and has two sons aged 13 and 11, got her first guide dog in 2011.

She will be at the Sailmakers Shopping Centre on Thursday and Friday with fellow members of the East and Mid-Suffolk branch of Guide Dogs for the Blind, where she will be helping to promote the new Take the Lead campaign which aims to encourage responsible dog ownership and prevent attacks on assistance dogs.

The key message of the charity’s Take the Lead campaign is for pet owners to be responsible by putting their dogs on a lead when they see a guide dog.

“I’m hopeful the campaign will get dog owners to realise the consequences an attack has not only on the dog but also the owners,” she said.

“I’m very lucky to still have Ivy in full blown working mode. She loves playing with dogs in her free time and has that air of confidence about her. She’s very resilient.

“But she does sometimes stop and wait for a dog to go past now and I can sometimes sense her relief.”

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