I was taking part in a “My guide” thing today. They wanted to make sure the lady was safe to guide a person before she was matched with a client. That was okay. We were practicing getting in and out of cars, when I happened to mention that if a guide dog was being carried, then the passenger side airbag would have to be disabled. I was then told by the engagement officer who was doing the my guide training, that apparently this is no longer the case. Insurance companies won’t cover a volunteer drivers car if the airbag is disabled!

To say i was fuming was an understatement. I have always asked for the airbag to be disabled in a car, especially if it is a volunteer driver from guide dogs who has been told when they do the driving course that the airbag must be disabled. We as guide dog owners are told this too. The only time i don’t ask for them to be disabled is in a taxi as i’m not sure if they would be allowed to do it, plus i feel kind of bad asking for it to be done but know it needs to be done. It’s okay if the driver has a big boot, but are you meant to have the dog in the front knowing an airbag could go off? I know it’s highly unlikely that they could go off, but all it would take would be a good speed bump and depending on how sensative they are could they not go off? Apparently it is up to the driver if they are turned off since the guide dog owner could sue the driver for serious injuries and could also sue guide dogs. I know i personally feel alot safer knowing that the airbag is disabled when Ushi is in the front of a car! Maybe i’m over reacting, but i don’t think this is right. That was one of the reasons why i wouldn’t travel with the treasurer to things. She wouldn’t disable her airbag “for just a dog”. Yes she had a big boot but it wasn’t the point.

I’m just so annoyed. I personally, and am sure many other guide dog owners wouldn’t let anything happen to their dogs. For a start, it would kill the dog instantly, which is £50.000 down the drain. But not just the money side. It’s the loss of the persons independence and livelyhood. It’s also the loss of a companion too. Even guide dogs staff were told to disable their airbags.

I for one moment am not getting at guide dogs before anyone thinks i am. I am getting at the bloody insurance companies. Bet they’ve never even seen a guide dog! Let alone a blind person!

So if a volunteer driver doesn’t have a big enough boot do you sit in fear of something happening? Or do we have to invest in a car harness for our dogs safety?

I have asked our branch organiser if she will be enabling her airbags again, but she says until she gets it in writing, (which is going to be sent out to all drivers, apparently) she will keep them disabled whenever she is transporting a dog and owner.

I’m seriously considering investing in a car harness. Maybe i am being paranoid, but under these new rules, potentially anyone who is a volunteer can become a driver, do the course and just change their insurance for “business” and wayhey they can carry a dog.

I probably am overreacting over this but it really annoyed me. Thankfully alot of guide dog owners on a facebook group i’m part of say the harnesses are comfortable and the dog can lie down and sit up. Oh and they can also sit on the seat without jumping up on furniture.

So i think one of these is deffinetly in our future. I don’t really like the thought of it as i like Ushi at my feet, but if needs must. Plus i’d rather have a slightly injured dog if something was to happen, rather than a dead one!

Oh and i’ll post the policy when i get it. (If guide dog owners get it!).