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Guide dog’s paws repeatedly cut by broken glass



Tomás Langan from Castlebar is pictured with his guide dog Usha, who has been injured by glass on the town’s streets four times since Christmas.
Tomás Langan from Castlebar is pictured with his guide dog Usha, who has been injured by glass on the town’s streets four times since Christmas. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Blind man’s guide dog’s paws repeatedly cut by broken glass

Loyal dog’s paws sliced open on Castlebar streets four times in three months

Ciara Galvin

A blind Castlebar man said he feels like a prisoner in his own home every time his guide dog is injured as a result of broken glass on the streets of Castlebar.
Tomás Langan told The Mayo News, ‘You feel like a prisoner in your own home because you’re afraid the next time you go out is he going to come back with another cut’. Tomás’s guide dog, Usha’s paws have been cut on broken glass on the streets of the town four times since Christmas.
He explained that because Usha is trained to guide him safely, the dog cannot walk on the road to avoid this broken glass on the street and instead walks through it in the interest of Tomás’s safety.
“He will walk over glass … over hot coals to keep me off the road. He makes the ultimate sacrifice, and it’s his paws that end up damaged,” explained Tomás.
Tomás, who works with Castlebar-based Murray Ambulance Service, attended Castlebar Town Council’s monthly meeting to raise his concerns about the issue and appealed to publicans to sweep outside their premises.
Tomás told the council that he has had Usha for five years and that only last Christmas he was thinking how lucky he was that his dog had not suffered any injuries. He added that each time Usha’s paws have been injured since Christmas he has been unable to work for Tomás for up to a week.
“I’ve heard of of other tragic stories of guide dogs being out weeks or months, having a huge effect on guide dog owners,” said Mr Langan.
Fine Gael councillor Ger Deere said it was a ‘new low’ to think Tomás’s quality of life could be hindered by people that ‘don’t give a damn’. The councillor said it was time for people ‘cop on and have some civic pride’.
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne put forward a previous proposal that a second shift  be put in place for street sweepers. Mayor Noreen Heston explained that funding for a second shift was not there, but that Town Manager Paddy Mahon would investigate the matter further.
Asked by The Mayo News if he was happy with the council’s response, Tomás said he was pleased that the council had listened to him and that there was some suggestions to tackle the problem of broken glass. However, he added that he was not ‘overly pleased’ about the council citing lack of resources, pointing to numerous reported instances of waste and inefficiency at council level.
A number of solutions to the problem were discussed at the meeting, including the prosecution of people found drinking on the street.
Another proposal was for letters to be written to publicans and business owners to highlight the problem and ask them to monitor their footpaths for glass and remove it.
Cllr Frank Durcan and Cllr Kilcoyne said there had been no prosecution for drinking on the street since the council brought in a bye-law prohibiting it.
Cllr Durcan suggested that a number of gardaí could be put in place in areas where bottles were being broken, which could result in prosecutions and a subsequent decrease in occurrences.
Town Engineer Seán Higgins told the meeting that the council currently has a mechanical road sweeper but is looking into purchasing a footpath sweeping machine.
Referring to Cllr Eugene McCormack’s description of the four incidents of Usha being injured were an ‘exception’, Tomás said he was ‘doubtful’ the word was correct.
Appealing directly to the people who break bottles on the streets, Tomás said: “Put your own dog onto broken  glass and let him walk through it and then watch him suffer … maybe you mightn’t break glass as quickly the next night you’re out.”