A woman who was left ‘furious and frightened’ after her guide dog was attacked has backed calls for people to keep their pets on a lead around working animals.

Jo Speer, who is severely sight impaired, said her life was transformed when she was paired with Bess, a black Labrador/golden retriever cross, around seven years ago through national charity Guide Dogs.

But the attack left her fearing that she could lose her best friend and mobility aid.

The charity has launched its Take the Lead campaign, calling on the public to put their dog on a lead if they are around a guide dog who is working. It comes as figures reveal that 12 guide dogs are attacked every month in the UK. In almost 60 per cent of these incidents, the aggressor dog was off the lead. In 2016 there were eight cases of guide dogs being attacked in Dorset, and six in 2017.

Jo, who works at Dorset Police headquarters in Winfrith, said the attack only lasted 30 seconds and that, luckily, Bess was not physically hurt – but the incident could have ended their partnership.

She had left work and was walking into Wool, where she lives, to the shops. The pair crossed Dorchester Road at the pedestrian crossing and, when they were on the other side of the road, Jo heard a voice shouting at a dog to ‘come here’.

Jo said: “I heard a dog growling and then it launched itself at Bess’s neck. It just wouldn’t stop. There’s a barrier there and Bess was right up against it – I dread to think what could happened if it hadn’t been there because it’s a busy road.”

The dog’s owner managed to get a lead on it, and Jo told Bess to move forward out of the way.

“My main concern was to just get Bess away from him. Thankfully there was no blood but her neck was really wet. My husband arrived and checked her over as well and luckily there were no puncture wounds.”

The attack happened in 2016 but Jo said it affects her even now.

“It made me nervous around other dogs, and that affects how Bess works. An incident like this could have ended her career as a guide dog. It could have meant that she was too anxious to work in harness.”

Before she got Bess, Jo said she was only comfortable leaving the house with a few trusted friends and has lost a lot of confidence, due to her degenerative condition, called retinitis pigmentosa. Now, she regularly goes away at weekends – always with Bess by her side.

She added: “If you know your dog can be reactive, please just keep him away. Even barking can be a distraction, which puts me at risk.”

Guide Dogs researcher, Rachel Moxon, said: “Guide dogs are life-changing for those living with sight loss, helping their owners live life to the full.

"Attacks on our dogs destroy confidence and can mean a guide dog owner once again loses their freedom and independence.

"Putting your dog on a lead when you see a guide dog working, allows you to have more control over the situation. Even if you know your dog is well-behaved, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

For more information about the campaign, visit guidedogs.org.uk/takethelead