Unrestrained pets costing veteran chance at guide dog

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­—Photo courtesy DON MEYERS Disabled vet William Yeager is still waiting for a guide dog. After dogs in the neighborhood ran up to Yegaer and a guide dog trainer, the company said it was taking the animal back to California, saying the other dogs posed a safety concern.

SANDPOINT — His neighbors' disregard of city leash laws has robbed a local disabled veteran of a much-needed service dog.

Senior citizen William Yeager lost his eyesight in the aftermath of a stroke, and advocates Cecilia and Don Meyers have been making a concerted effort to help him obtain a guide dog. After being turned down by one service animal provider due to Yeager’s inability to speak clearly, the Meyers hit paydirt with a San Rafael, Calif., organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Don Meyers said.

Last week, the company sent a dog and trainer to Sandpoint on a trial basis, and they joined Yeager for several days on his regular walks, Meyers said.

"Bill walks a lot anyway," he said. "Sometimes three or four miles a day."

Yeager and the service dog got along well. However, at the end of the trial period, the animal's trainer made the unexpected announcement that he was taking the dog back with him to San Rafael, Meyers said.

Each day when Yeager, the dog and the trainer walked along Ridley Village Road toward the Sandpoint-Dover walking path, unrestrained dogs from neighboring homes rushed the trio. The trainer considered the loose dogs be a safety concern, Meyer said.

Although the trainer and Meyers both approached the dogs' owners, they failed to get resolution. By ignoring city leash laws, which require dogs be restrained, these dogs' owners caused Yeager to lose a much-needed guide and companion.

"Bill was sad," said Meyers, because Yeager had begun to bond with the service animal.

Meyers approached the Sandpoint Police Department and the city of Sandpoint for help in asking Guide Dogs for the Blind to reconsider its decision, and Jennifer Stapleton, city administrator, has arranged a meeting between Chief Corey Coon, Meyers and herself later this week.

"Had they contacted our police department, they certainly would have responded," she said. "This situation is a good reminder to the community that you cannot have dogs at large in the city."

City council will consider approval of new signage clarifying leash laws within Sandpoint next week, Stapleton said.

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