Blind World Magazine

Paramedics refuse to transport guide dog with its owner.

Tampa Bay's 10 News (Florida).
Wednesday, May 17, 2006.

Brooksville, Florida - Dave Bearden is nursing a twisted knee and a strained elbow, but perhaps his most serious injury is to his spirit.

Dave Bearden, Guide dog owner:

"I'm not really angry, as much as I am hurt and sad."

On Monday night Bearden was taking a walk around his neighborhood with his guide dog Isaac, when a pit-bull suddenly attacked.

Dave Bearden, Guide dog owner:

"That was kind of scary. It was a little terrifying."

While trying to fend off the pit-bull with his cane, Bearden injured his arm and leg and later called for an ambulance. But when paramedics arrived, they refused to transport Bearden and Isaac to the hospital together.

Bearden says that goes against both state and federal laws.

Dave Bearden, Guide dog owner:

"At that point I said, 'no, you will not separate me from my dog.that's illegal.'""

And the President of the Florida Association of Guide Dog users agrees. Marion Gwizdala says when he needed an ambulance, his guide dog went along for the ride.

Marion Gwizdala, Blind Activist:

"To me an ambulance is a healthcare's on wheels, but it's a healthcare facility."

But Hernando's Assistant Fire Chief stands by his crew. Frank Defrancesco says paramedics feared Isaac might become aggressive and they offered to take the dog to the hospital in a separate car.

Frank Defrancesco, Asst. Fire Chief:

"They did the appropriate thing to try and make the patient and everyone satisfied with the situation and they did it in a professional manner."

But for people who depend on their guide dogs for freedom, separate cars just doesn't cut it. And Bearden says he expects more from health professionals.

Dave Bearden, Guide dog owner:

"They're paid public servants.this is their job."

Defrancesco says he's willing to sit down with the blind activists and discuss the situation and possibly review the department's policy.

Kathryn Bursch, Tampa Bay's 10 News

End of article.

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