A blind disability activist has spoken out about how he and a blind friend were verbally abused by an animal rights activist who had become angered by the sight of their guide dogs.
Dr Amit Patel had been enjoying a nice drink with his friend Jonathan at the Portsmouth Marriott, shortly after speaking at the Animal Star Awards; an awards evening dedicated to service animals and humans within the animal industry.
Dr Patel had given out the very first award of the evening and spoke about some of the issues facing those using service animals in their everyday lives. One of the issues he touched upon was people criticising those with guide dogs, due to misconceptions about the animals being ‘forced to work’.
Last night: two blind guys & our dogs at a bar, having a quiet drink. We then get accosted by an aggressive women screaming that we’re cruel for having Guide Dogs. Not only was she in our faces but at one point I thought she‘d get physical. Not a comfortable position to be in. pic.twitter.com/OvckbdtYNh
— Dr Amit Patel (@BlindDad_Uk) October 20, 2019
Little did Dr Patel realise he was about to be accosted by one such individual, mere hours later while he was catching up with Jonathan.
Taking to Twitter, Dr Patel shared his story:
Last night: two blind guys & our dogs at a bar, having a quiet drink. We then get accosted by an aggressive women screaming that we’re cruel for having Guide Dogs.
Not only was she in our faces but at one point I thought she‘d get physical. Not a comfortable position to be in.
Speaking with UNILAD, Dr Patel revealed the woman – who declared herself to be an animal rights activist – was shouting inches from their faces, telling them they were ‘absolutely cruel’ for having guide dogs.
The woman – who Dr Patel believes was a guest at the hotel – even went as far as to suggest the two men were as bad as people who organise dog fights.
As Dr Patel explained to UNILAD, the woman’s aggression came ‘out of the blue’:
You could hear bar stools kind of moving as she started talking, people coming over to give us assistance. But the people who were in the bar were the people who were in the awards, who’d actually heard me speak about this.
So for a few seconds, I think people actually thought, ‘oh he spoke about this just recently’, and people actually approached me afterwards and said ‘we’d never heard about this, we never realised that this was an issue’.
And I would say it’s only in the last six to nine months that it’s actually got worse. Since putting the tweet out – if you read the comments – it’s not just guide dog owners, it’s medical detection dog owners, it’s hearing dog owners.
Can you imagine having someone shout at you when you can’t hear them? And it’s people with hearing loss, you know. It’s crazy. Imagine shouting at someone who is deaf, who has a hearing dog, and telling them they are cruel. It’s not on.
Dr Patel believes ‘misconceptions that we make our dogs work’ is behind the rise in incidents such as this. In reality, guide dogs enjoy their work and would be re-situated at once if they didn’t.
Dr Patel told UNILAD:
These dogs don’t make it through their training if they don’t want to work. A lot of dogs don’t make it through their training because they don’t want to work because they’re not interested or they’re too sniffy.
You know, to be able to trust your life to a guide dog, that dog has to be concentrated 24/7. I can’t go through central London at peak time and have a dog that has a kind of ‘I don’t really want to work but I’ll do it anyway’ attitude. My guide dog has to be on it all the time.
Careful procedures are implemented to ensure guide dogs are placed with the right people, ensuring a mutually beneficial, rewarding and ultimately life-changing bond.
Dr Patel’s own dog Kika – who has been by his side for five years – has given him independence and confidence, as well as the ability to go out without immediately worrying about his personal safety.
Described as being ‘part of the family’, sweet Kika was even present for the birth of Dr Patel’s two children, providing a calming presence for his wife. And she is said to be treated as a ‘grandchild’ by his wife’s parents.
Kika in turn enjoys her work a guide dog, and even nudges her beloved master when he’s working from home to encourage him to get out and about.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.