September 17, 2009

Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission commends the Government on New Act

Yvonne Peters, Vice chairperson of the Manitoba Rights Commission says Bill 238 The Service Animals Protection Act offers a great opportunity to educate the public about the work of a guide dog.

In her submission to public committee hearings last night, Ms Peters, who is visually impaired and has a guide dog, explained her personal experiences regarding the safety concerns associated with interfering with the work of service dogs.

"On one occasion I was crossing a very busy street here in Winnipeg and a stranger, who thought my dog looked hungry, began feeding her some chips,” she said adding that many people do not realize the risk of such actions. “Dogs are not machines, and like many of us, the prospect of tasty food or other fun activities may be a distraction and put both the handler and the guide at risk."

She compared such actions as being just as dangerous as grabbing a steering wheel or interfering with a driver when a car is in motion.

Ms Peters understands that in many cases, interference with a service dog is unintentional but emphasized that the result can be emotional and physical harm to both dog and person, and often the dog guide is no longer capable of working.

Ms Peters also addressed the cost of breeding and training a dog guide, which can range from $20,000 to $60,000. Also, if a dog needs to be replaced, the process of matching a dog with a handler can take many months, she said.

Ms Peters also thanked Sharon Blady, the MLA for Kirkfield Park, for bringing this legislation forward though a private members bill.

For more information, please contact:

Patricia Knipe
Communications Director
Manitoba Human Rights Commission