Guide dogs forced to retire due to ‘heartbreaking’ impact of fireworks

Ulla Quayle’s guide dogs Sage had to retire in 2020 due to the stress of the impact of fireworks.
Guide dogs forced to retire due to ‘heartbreaking’ impact of fireworks

It comes as the organisation continues to support visually impaired people as well as the families of children with autism. Pic Pat Larkin.

AN Irish charity spoke of how psychological distress linked with Halloween fireworks is forcing a number of their guide and service dogs into early retirement.

The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind which operates all over Ireland, including in Model farm Road, has issued a warning to people about the devastating impact of fireworks in the run up to Halloween.

It comes as the organisation continues to support visually impaired people as well as the families of children with autism.

They stressed that fireworks can be extremely distressing for all animals but particularly working dogs such as Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs. This has resulted in a number of service dogs having to retire which has been equally devastating for their owners. One woman supported by the charity opened up about her own personal experience.

Ulla Quayle’s guide dogs Sage had to retire in 2020 due to the stress of the impact of fireworks.

“She was only four years of age,” Una said. “I should have had another six more wonderful years with this amazing dog. She suffered severe trauma from the fireworks and was never the same dog after. She was terrified to leave the house which broke all our hearts as she was a much-loved family member.” She emphasised that Sage was unable to work again, despite the charity’s best efforts.

“Even the trainers in Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind couldn't get her to overcome her fear of noises to the extent she became terrified of doors shutting,” she said. “She was retired to a lovely family where she is living out her days in peace and quiet. Guide Dogs become part of your family and parting with them is agony.” 

Tim O'Mahony, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind explained that Sage is just one of a number of dogs suffering in this way.

"Situations like Ulla’s are not uncommon. Not only is the impact on the dog heart-breaking but it’s devastating for the owner who must wait to be matched with another dog which can take many months. In the meantime, the independence and mobility which they previously enjoyed is hugely curtailed or completely taken away. If a dog has an experience which goes beyond a normal level of stress, such as a firework exploding close to them, this can overly sensitise the dog, similar to PTSD in humans. Whilst most dogs can recover, some will overreact to unexpected noise which manifests as a fear reaction. Every Halloween our teams support a number of our clients whose dogs have been adversely impacted by fireworks.” 

Pet owners are being advised to keep their dogs indoors as much as possible during Halloween. They can also reduce the risk of distress by drowning out noise with the radio or television and pull the curtains to minimise visual exposure. Natural remedies are available from vets and pharmacies to alleviate stress in dogs If you are concerned about fireworks being set off in your area, you can report it to the An Garda Siochana by phoning your local Garda Station or by calling the An Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

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