The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
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|Formation||December 0, 1934|
Guide Dogs provides help to thousands of blind and partially sighted people across the UK through the provision of guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services. They also campaign for the rights of those with visual impairments and invest in eye disease research.
Guide Dogs’ head office is based near Reading in Berkshire. They have four Guide Dog Training Schools in Redbridge, Leamington, Atherton and Forfar, as well as a National Breeding Centre near Leamington, plus 20 Mobility Teams and many fundraising branches across the country. Guide Dogs has approximately 10,000 volunteers, fundraisers and supporters around the country, as well as about 1,000 professional employees.
The guide dog service provides a blind or partially sighted person with a guide dog. These dogs are born in the home of a volunteer brood bitch holder then move to the home of a volunteer puppy walker when six weeks old. After 12 to 14 months the dogs will move to a specialist trainer, where they train for around 26 weeks to gain the skills they need. This includes three to five weeks of intensive work with their new owner. Every person and dog is unique, so matching a guide dog to an owner is a complex process and trainers have to take into account all a person’s needs, including their walking speed, height, and lifestyle. It does not end there; Guide Dogs is committed to providing support for the partnership and to the guide dog owner for as long as it is needed and a guide dog owner could have up to eight dogs in their lifetime. After between six and seven years’ service, a guide dog is retired and is re-homed.
Guide Dogs is a world leader in the breeding and training of guide dogs and is a co-founder of the International Guide Dog Federation.
There are currently 4,700 working guide dog partnerships in the UK and more than 1,300 puppies are born each year. Guide dog owners only have to pay a nominal 50p for their dog to ensure no-one is prevented from having one due to a lack of funds and the full ‘lifetime cost’ of a guide dog from birth to retirement is £49,800. The guide dog service receives no government funding and so the charity is completely reliant on voluntary donations and legacy income.
The first four British guide dogs - Judy, Flash, Folly and Meta - completed their training at Wallasey, Wirral in 1931, and three years after this The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was formed. This would not have been possible without the work of Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond, German shepherd breeders who trained the first guide dogs. The first permanent trainer for Guide Dogs was Captain Nikolai Liakhoff, who came to England in 1933.
In 1956 Guide Dogs began to recruit volunteers to become puppy walkers. A few years later a breeding programme was introduced and by 1970 these components of Guide Dogs’ work had grown so much they were given their own premises at Tollgate House, near Leamington Spa. The most influential figure in the development of Guide Dogs’ puppy walking and breeding programmes was the late Derek Freeman MBE.
In 1964, the charity’s work was introduced to a new generation when the children’s television programme Blue Peter launched an appeal to collect silver foil and milk bottle tops. Blue Peter raised enough to fund two guide dog puppies, Cindy and Honey, whom the programme followed through their training. This feature was repeated in the early 1980s, again in 2006 with Andy Akinwolere and puppy Magic and in 2014 another puppy Iggy.
Guide Dogs relies on many volunteers and there are over 48 different volunteering roles. Key roles filled by volunteers include puppy walking (where puppy walkers take a pup into their home for 12 to 14 months and help familiarise it with everyday sights and sounds), boarding (those who look after trainee guide dogs in the evenings and at weekends), breeding stock holders (those who look after the brood bitches and stud dogs), drivers, branch roles (such as branch treasurer or branch supporter), and fundraising.
Guide Dogs campaigns strongly on issues that restrict the freedom and independence of blind and partially sighted people. Examples include campaigning for the inclusion of audio-visual equipment on buses, equal access to taxis, and encouraging service providers (such as shops, restaurants and banks) to provide a level of access and service that meets the needs of blind and partially sighted people. Guide Dogs is also involved heavily in the current shared surfaces debate, as well as campaigning for safer streets, which involves working with local authorities, MPs and others to raise awareness of the problems caused by obstacles on the streets, which can cause danger for blind and partially sighted people.
Guide Dogs is one of the largest charitable funders of ophthalmic research in the UK and since 1990 has supported more than 100 separate projects, varying from epidemiological research into glaucoma to the identification of ‘repair’ cells that may be important in healing the damaged blood vessels in diabetic retinopathy.
The current portfolio of projects that Guide Dogs supports includes studies into predicting the development of age-related cataracts, improving early detection of glaucoma, using drugs called statins to treat eye diseases associated with diabetes, and detecting and treating squints in children.
Guide Dogs also carries out canine research to enhance the health, welfare, quality of life and performance of its dogs and psychosocial research into areas such as the well-being of people that are blind and partially sighted, emotional support and further understanding of key areas such as depression.
Guide Dog of the Year
'Guide Dog of the Year' is an annual awards event run by Guide Dogs. Its aim is to recognise the work of the 4,700 guide dogs currently working for their blind or partially sighted owners around the UK. In 2009 the overall winner was Buster, a three-year-old golden retriever.
Guide Dogs is behind the campaign, Say No to Shared Streets, which is now backed by 20 other disability organisations. The campaign argues against the introduction of shared surface streets in the UK.
- Guide dog
- List of Guide Dog Schools
- Bradbury Fields - fellow members of the Merseyside Forum for Local Providers. Also share a Liverpool property with Guide Dogs.
- International Guide Dog Federation Retrieved March 25, 2010
- Guide Dogs facts, Retrieved March 25, 2010
- History. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
- Guide dog of the year 2007, BBC News, March 22, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2007.
- Guide Dogs campaigns Retrieved March 25, 2010.
- Guide Dogs research and funding Retrieved March 25, 2010.
- Healthy Eyes website Retrieved March 25, 2010.
- "'Shared street' problem for blind". BBC News. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Guppy, Margaret (2007). The Wainwright Legacy. Birkenhead, Wirral: Countryvise Limited. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-901231-87-8.