Island goat herder will be left without his guide dog

September 25th, 2018 11:55 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Carer Vanessa O'Sullivan and Ed Harper with ‘Izzy'

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ED Harper, the blind goat herder on Cape Clear island, has been given a week’s notice that his dog, Izzy, is to be ‘retired’ without any hope of a replacement dog.

Vanessa O’Sullivan, who is Ed’s carer, contacted The Southern Star to highlight the fact that the Irish Guide Dogs Association has informed Ed that they will be sending a representative to his home on Monday, September 24th next to seize his dog’s harness.

‘The net effect of this,’ according to Vanessa, ‘is that Izzy will remain in Ed’s home, but will no longer be permitted to work as a guide dog.

‘In doing this, they will be taking away a man’s freedom and independence,’ said Vanessa, who claimed the organisation has not offered a replacement dog, nor have they given any indication of a date for a potential replacement. 

‘This is despite the fact that we have been requesting assessment for a new dog for over two years,’ added Vanessa. ‘Izzy is great,’ she said, ‘but at 10.5 years, she has earned her retirement.’

Ed Harper told The Southern Star: ‘I am devastated that the Irish Guide Dogs Association have been unable to find me a replacement dog for two-and-a-half years. This takes away my independence and makes it impossible for me to do key aspects of my job as a goat farmer, and will severely impact on my social life.’

Ed said: ‘This is not just a personal problem – it didn’t start yesterday or the day before – the Irish Guide Dogs Association has let me down badly.’

Ed, who has a high profile as an environmental campaigner and as a candidate in local elections, will be holding a press conference in Cork city on Saturday to highlight the situation.

A statement from the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind said: ‘It is not Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind’s policy to comment on individual client cases. However, unfortunately we can confirm we have not yet been able to provide a dog to Mr Harper. We began our Breeding Regeneration Programme some three years ago. We are forecasting to have 30 guide dogs trained this year which will increase to 39 next year, all going well. While this increase in pups and guide dogs is very positive, it is very difficult for our clients who have to wait for a new dog. However, we are working at full tilt to match all clients to dogs as a soon as possible.’

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