Meshoppen, PA (PressExposure) January 31, 2009 -- âWe oppose most seeing-eye-dog programs,â says Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA's vice president for Cruelty Investigations, in an interview with the LA Timesâs "LA Unleashed."
Nachminovitchâs objections go beyond PETAâs distaste for breeding programs. âThey are kept in harnesses almost 24/7, people are prohibited from petting or playing with them and they cannot romp and run and interact with other dogs.â PETA also claims that schools force blind people to return their retired dogs.
Nachminovitch doubts the fitness of most blind people to care for their animals, âA deaf person can see if a dog has a medical issue such as blood in her urine, a blind person living alone cannot.â PETAâs solution would return blind people to lives of dependence; âThe human community should do more to support blind people, and give dogs a break. .â
Outraged guide dog handlers from many schools commented on latimes.com refuting every point. Some like Marion Gwizdala, , president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU)
http://www.nfb-nagdu.org/ and Donna Hill, head of media relations, Performing Arts Division, National Federation of the Blind (PAD, NFB)
http://www.padnfb.org wrote to Nachminovitch.
Do Nachminovitchâs generalizations unfairly target a group with more than enough problems? Unemployment among working-age blind Americans is seventy percent. They are more likely to be underemployed and living in poverty. Nonetheless, there are blind lawyers, engineers, doctors, mechanics, teachers, parents, etc. Why the disparity?
âThe biggest problem we face as blind people,â wrote Gwizdala, â is misunderstanding and lack of information. It is unfortunate that you choose to promulgate the myths that create barriers to our full inclusion in society. â
Schools have voluntary retirement programs. âMore often than not,â Gwizdala continues, âour dogs live out their lives with their blind caretakers. My previous guide dog worked until he was fourteen years old and lived out the remainder of his sixteen years with me.â
âGuide dog schools all teach us not to allow people to pet our dogs when in harness,â writes Hill, âThere is a difference between work and play, and it is safer when people respect that. Guide dog handlers regularly report that people approach them while the dog is in harness and pet the dog without even saying hello. Most people ask to pet an unfamiliar dog and respect the personâs wishes. If they say no, they don't pet the dog anyway or assume that no one ever pets that dog. The fact that this is what happens when strangers encounter guide dogs is evidence that blind people are not respected as independent adults.â
Are blind people unqualified to meet the health needs of their dogs? Hill writes, âI had a vet who told me that one of his professors said that if a blind person brings in their guide dog and tells you they think something's wrong and you can't find anything, keep looking. You are right that I can't see if there's blood in his urine, but I would know something was wrong long before that.â
a form letter from Heidi Parker, PETAâs Mail Coordinator, sent to people like Gwizdala and Hill back-pedals on Nachminovitchâs remarks. âOur comments were not meant to reflect badly on people who use or train guide dogs.â
Blind people share PETAâs concern for unwanted dogs. PETA, however, doesnât acknowledge that most guide dog schools have used shelter dogs. Too many shelter dogs failed the programs, adding to the cost of training. Breeding programs provide healthier dogs with the aptitude and temperament for the work. Guide dogs perform advanced tasks, avoiding overhanging obstacles, navigating public transportation and moving safely through crowded pedestrian and vehicular traffic. They can find specific locations, when trained with patience and praise.