Blossom, an 11-week-old lab with her trainer, Cheryl Tradewell, in training to be a service dog with the BC and Alberta Guide Dog Society. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Guide dogs lack social distancing skills, public asked to assist when necessary

Dogs trained to take most efficient route meaning they could jump the line, brush against people

While the public adapts to social distancing as a new norm, BC and Alberta Guide Dogs are reminding people that guide dogs aren’t taught social distancing and to be mindful of this when out and about.

Guide dogs are trained to take their owner on the most efficient route from point A to B, which could lead to them brushing against people or jumping ahead of people in the spaced out line at the grocery store.

READ ALSO: Victoria veteran begs people to please not touch his service dog

“We need assistance here from people who are able to speak up and assist the person with the visual impairment,” said Bill Thornton, CEO of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs. “They’re not trying to take advantage that’s just the way the dogs are taught.”

The pandemic has impacted the organization in other ways too. Training has to take a back seat, with only some classes being moved online through Zoom meetings. Luckily all dogs were already in homes prior to the pandemic meaning the organization didn’t have to scramble to get them out of a kennel.

READ ALSO: Play trivia online to help raise puppies for B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs

“[The pandemic] has affected guide dog owners pretty much the same as the rest of us,” said Thornton. “We’re dealing with capable people, people with a great deal of ability and they’re adapting like the rest of us.”

Thornton said the only concern he’s heard from a person who uses a guide dog is wondering if the virus could be transmitted through the dogs.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control there have been reports of cats — and a tiger — becoming sick with the virus after being in close contact with an infected person and in Hong Kong, two pet dogs tested positive but did not show any symptoms. BCCDC adds that its unlikely pets can infect people, stating that the virus is spreading from person to person.

Applications to receive a guide dog have also stopped but anyone in need of one can call the organization at 604-940-4504 to have their information taken down to start the process when the pandemic is declared over.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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