Andie, a four-year-old yellow lab, is Richard Draper’s eyes -- literally. She maneuvers him safely everywhere he goes.
“She has been with me for the past two years,” Draper said. “She takes me to the corner, takes me to the curb, she crosses the street with me. She is my eyes. There is no doubt about it; she is my eyes.”
On January 4, Draper said he was attacked by three of his neighbor’s pit bulls that got loose. According to a Bradenton Police report, the dogs accidentally got out from the garage and attacked Draper as he was walking by.
“The next thing I knew, I'd seen this flash of white light pounce on her,” Draper said. “When I started twisting to get in between, I knew it was a dog.”
Draper is legally blind but can see bright lights and vague outlines. He knew there were two dogs attacking him because one was latched to Andie’s neck, the other biting his right leg.
“If the Good Samaritan wouldn't have been there, my dog would've been dead, and I probably would've been chewed up pretty bad,” Draper said.
Draper said the attack felt like an eternity. He said the attack came with no warning.
“It was awful,” Draper said. And if the attack wasn’t bad enough, Draper said the responding police officer had little if no compassion for what just happened.
“I get angry thinking about it. My dog was bleeding, and my dog needed medical help right away,” Draper said. ”I was trying to explain to the officer how important this dog was and the money that goes into the training, and he kind of laughed it off.”
The cost to train a guide dog can be tens of thousands of dollars. Following the attack, Draper worries his dog will be too scared of other dogs to perform his duties.
“This dog is my eyes. My eyes were laying on the ground bleeding and couching up blood, and it was an hour and half before I was able to take my dog to the vet 'cause the police wouldn’t let me leave until the report was finished.”
Draper said he is thinking about filing a formal complaint against the officer who responded to the call.
“It was ridiculous," said Draper. "I wonder if the police dog was shot in the line of duty, would the police wait an hour and a half to fill out the paperwork before he got there dog to the vet?”
The owner was issued a citation following the attack. ABC Action News tried to talk to a woman at the home at 4014 W. Southern Parkway, but we were told they would not comment on camera. One woman did say, “My dog was in her yard at the time of the incident. She wasn't on the leash, but she was in the yard with the owner. The dog had two little holes in his neck."
ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska told the woman he had pictures of the attack showing more than just two holes in the dog’s neck. She responded, “I don't care what you have, and I am not talking to nobody.”
The home is across the street from an elementary school. Draper said two things need to come out of his attack. The first, he said police need more training when dealing with service dogs. And second, he said the owner of the dogs needs to make sure they don’t ever get out again.
“They are dangerous,” Draper said. “You could be talking about a dead kid.”