Activists abuse blind man for having guide dog
Animal rights activists have attacked a blind man for having a guide dog, saying the animal did not give its "consent" and that it should be "out there playing in the fields" instead of working.
Scottish man Jonathan Attenborough was born without sight in his right eye and lost sight in his left eye five years ago due to aggressive glaucoma.
He was paired with his guide dog Sam, a three-year-old labrador, in April last year. The highly trained service animal is his "constant companion" and allows the 30-year-old to live a more fulfilling life.
But according to Mr Attenborough, he has faced a series of verbal attacks from strangers - and he fears more abuse. Another blind man said he had also faced hostility.
"I was very surprised the first time it happened, somebody approached me and made a claim that I was cruel for having a guide dog," Mr Attenborough told STV News.
"To start with I thought they were joking. I asked them why and they said they were an animal rights campaigner, and to me it's completely bemusing, but they said the dogs should have to give their consent to do jobs like this. They had a couple of issues with the welfare of them as well."
Mr Attenborough said the second time it happened he was catching up with a friend, who is also a guide dog owner.
"We were sitting at a bar at a local hotel at the weekend and this middle-aged woman approached us," he said.
"She had come up to order drinks at the bar and me and my friend were just sitting there minding our own business. She was actually quite aggressive, claiming that we were cruel for being guide dog owners. (She said) these dogs shouldn't be lying on the floor of a bar, they should be out there playing in the fields - this was at like one o'clock in the morning."
The woman "was right up in our faces, really sort of screaming and we kind of feared it would have escalated further if her husband hadn't ushered her away", according to Mr Attenborough.
He denied the dogs are mistreated at all.
"These dogs are probably the most well looked after dogs that you can imagine," he said. "Their nutrition is top-notch, they get the top-notch medical care, they get check-ups all the time, so for me that's a non-argument."
He added, "Sam is like my best buddy, we go everywhere together, he's never left on his own, and he's with me 24/7 so for me I can't understand where these campaigners are coming from."
Robert Meikle was matched with his guide dog, a black labrador named Winnie, in July last year. He told the Scottish broadcaster he had 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," the Glasgow resident said.
"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."