One year after attack, blind victim takes the lead to protect guide dogs

BEST MATES: Orange Public School students Sophie Mahlo and Angus Staniforth with Matt Bryant, his guide dog Bronco and his children Shailyn and Logan Bryant at a talk about guide dog etiquette with students in year 3 and 4. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
0430guidedog

BEST MATES: Orange Public School students Sophie Mahlo and Angus Staniforth with Matt Bryant, his guide dog Bronco and his children Shailyn and Logan Bryant at a talk about guide dog etiquette with students in year 3 and 4. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0430guidedog

THERE is not much in the world scarier than hearing a growling, barking dog running at you, but you cannot see it, says Orange man Matt Bryant, who is blind. 

Unfortunately, Mr Bryant and his guide dog Bronco were attacked by a dog that was off its lead while they walked towards March Street last year. 

Bronco tried to fight back. 

“He was just trying to protect me,” he said. 

“But I didn’t know what to do or what was happening because I couldn’t see.”

As part of International Guide Dog Day students at Orange Public School were shown how to behave around a guide dog by Mr Bryant and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

The program is called Take the Lead and is designed to educate people not to let their dogs off their leads and be vigilant around people with guide dogs when in leash-free areas. 

In the past year, a national survey of more than 220 guide dog handlers who are blind or vision impaired, including 76 NSW and ACT residents, found that on average one guide dog a month in NSW and the ACT was attacked by another dog.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT chief executive officer Dr Graeme White said other worrying results showed pet dogs distracting guide dogs from their job was a major safety concern for guide dog handlers, with most saying they had experienced off-lead dogs distracting their guide dogs on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

“Any distraction to a working guide dog can put its handler’s safety at risk. For example, if a guide dog is distracted while guiding its handler across the road, the consequences could be disastrous,” Dr White said.

Mr Bryant received Bronco about 15 months ago and said he had experienced similar issues.

One, he remembered, occurred at a traffic light, which was the worst possible location to distract a guide dog. 

He said another problem was people thought it was fine to pat Bronco while he was in his harness. 

“I was at a cafe and I went to pay for a coffee I had ordered on my key card and a woman started patting Bronco on the head,” he said.

“Bronco got really excited and he reacted and wanted to play, he’s a dog, and I lost concentration on what I was doing.”

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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