Service animals have certainly made their way into the news in recent months. We are familiar with them and most of us have become comfortable with the reality that they perform specific tasks for their human counterparts.
It could be dogs that are herding sheep on a farm or dogs that are trained to sniff drugs or bombs but in any case, we know that dogs have that level of intelligence. They are able to help humans in many different ways.
Wendy Turner-Webster, however, is a woman who has taken a very controversial stance. She has spoken out against using working dogs because they aren’t capable of providing consent.
Turner-Webster claims that the welfare of the animal isn’t being considered. In her words, the animals “aren’t capable of consenting to do the work.”
“The welfare issues are probably two fold; the first is that they are bred specifically for the program, and the 25 percent of them that don’t make the grade have to be rehomed,” she stated. “They’re going into a system which is already bursting full of dogs that need to find a new home.”
She went on to highlight a fact that most of us have already accepted. Those guide dogs are not typically able to care for their human partners forever.
“The other thing is the concern as to what happens when the dog retires; not every guide dog owner can keep that dog. It’s the whole welfare issue around it. We need new technology.”
As you can imagine, people are up in arms about her opinion. Dogs are trained to be used as service animals and guide dogs and they are often cared for quite nicely, as well as being highly trained. Pierce Morgan interviewed her and asked her if it was necessary to get a dog’s consent to teach them any tricks, including to sit.
She answered his question in a very nonchalant manner: “I know when I’m putting my animal, or any animal, in a potentially dangerous or vulnerable situation.”
Turner-Webster has received a lot of criticism from the general public over her opinion. This includes people who are not working on specific types of assistance training, such as for a seeing-eye dog.
Project O.D.I.N. is a navigation system that was created for those who are visually impaired. It is a type of technology that may, someday, be able to replace guide dogs. There are also those who disagree about that possibility as well.
They tweeted a response, saying: “Even ODIN is not able to replace the amazing work that the dogs do in keeping members of the visually impaired community safe and the dogs receive love and care in return! Thank you to our four legged friends.”
Others also had a problem with what Turner-Webster was saying, even those who weren’t associated with those technological companies. They speak about the emotional benefits provided in this mutual relationship.
Another user on Twitter said that the guide dogs are one of the best things that happened to many of those owners.
Is it time to ban working animals?
An animal welfare campaigner says it's time to stop using guide dogs as they don't agree to do the work – and using them is unethical. She'd like to see alternatives introduced.
What do you think? pic.twitter.com/31yBEQk182
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) November 12, 2018
It doesn't matter whether there's a technical replacement. Guide dogs have a good stimulating life with someone who appreciates them. It is good for the dog & the person they help & both get emotional benefit its not simply about the dog doing work & whether that can be replaced
— Paul Williams (@Hambiuk) November 12, 2018
Not to be rude but this is seriously stupid. The animal welfare campaigner should go and sit in the house of a guide dog and see the love, affection and gratitude that is given to these dogs every day by their owners. They are probably the most important thing in the owners life.
— Jamie (@jamiewarwick) November 13, 2018
Turner-Webster may have come into this thinking that she was going to have a lot of people rallying around her, but it seems as if her opinion has fallen flat.