Man Attempts to Steal Guide Dog from Blind University Student as She Walked Alone Through Park

Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


Maisy McAdam, a 23-year-old university student from Hampshire in England, was walking in a nature reserve for her daily exercise with her guide dog Willow one afternoon in February, when a stranger attempted to snatch her pet from her, believing she would not be able to see him prowling around.

The cold-hearted dognapper had his eyes on the six-year-old labrador-golden retriever cross, and approached the partially-blind student in a moment when she had the dog off its leash.

Nevertheless, Ms McAdam was able to sense the man lurking, and when he continued to ask questions about its age and breed, quickly realised that he was trying to put his own lead on her guide dog.

Catching the man off guard, she asked him what he was doing as he strained to sneakily place the lead on Willow.

At this point, the man, stunned, quickly fled away on foot from the woman. 


Student Now “Nervous” To Venture Out By Herself Following Attempted Theft of Her Guide Dog

A rattled Ms McAdam spoke to The Mirror following the incident to share her disturbing experience.

“I asked him what he was doing and he seemed startled and jumped up and didn’t say anything. I quickly clipped on Willow’s lead and left the area,” Ms McAdam, who relies on her guide dog to navigate roads safely, recounted.

The student said while she does not have peripheral vision, she was able to hear the sound of the man clicking the lead, which signalled to her that he was trying to steal her guide dog.

The woman wanted to call her mum, but was also scared the crook would return to steal her phone.

“I went to call my mum but then got scared that the man would come back and take my phone,” Ms McAdam said.

Shaken, she instead hurriedly walked back to her partner’s home, eventually deciding to phone her instructor at Guide Dogs, who offered her comfort.

In the aftermath of the attempted dog theft, Ms McAdam informed Hampshire Police of the incident, telling them she is now “nervous” about venturing out by herself.

“I feel sick about what could have happened. I’m worried that as Willow is so friendly with people that she won’t have realised until it is was too late,” the student appealed.

“I’m now quite nervous of going out on my own, and will probably walk more with my partner there too.”

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has since addressed the incident, referring to the dognapping attempt as “beggars’ belief”, and has also supported calls for more substantial sentences for stealing dogs.

Ms McAdam’s episode comes as charities estimate the incidence of dog theft has surged 250% due to the present lockdown circumstances, which has been energised by increasing demand for puppies given that lockdown provides families more time to spend with their pets at home.

Meanwhile, The Guide Dogs for the Blind’s director of canine affairs, Tim Stafford, heeded that people are about who will not hesitate to take advantage of the blind.

“It was obvious that Maisy was visually impaired – that shows the kind of people are about who will take dogs,” Mr Stafford said.

“Willow’s owner, Maisy, had a long white cane so she could stay safe and somebody comes along and starts a conversation, which is really common as people like to ask about guide dogs.” 


The Importance of Guide Dogs for the Blind

In the case Willow been stolen from Ms McAdams, she would have lost much more than simply her companion and family member.

Willow enables the student to lead an independent life and have the self-assurance to move around freely.

In fact, Willow was consciously paired with her by Guide Dogs following the dog undergoing years of specialist training.

Speaking of her companion, Ms McAdams said, “She’s the best, I know I am biased but she really is”.

“She’s given me so much confidence, not only to travel around by myself but to meet new people and speak up for myself.”

Stealing another person’s dog is against the law and depending on what state you are in, the penalties for this offence can even include jail time.

For those in NSW, Section 503 of the Crimes Act 1900 sets out the law on stealing another person’s dog.

It outlines that for such an offence, a maximum penalty of six months in jail applies, or a $550 fine, or both.

It is also against the law to merely possess a stolen dog, as it is to be in possession of its skin, where you know the dog has been stolen.

This is outlined in section 504 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which prescribes a maximum penalty of a $550 fine for the offence.

In NSW, it is also a crime to steal another person’s dog, then request a profit for its return where the owner has offered a monetary reward for the dog being given back.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

For more information on this law, get in touch with our criminal lawyers Penrith branch today. We appear across all courts.

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