The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
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Guide Dogs logo
|Formation||30 August 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. 
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 female dog 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 4,800 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 around £50,000. 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, 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.
Since 1990 Guide Dogs has provided funding for ophthalmic research to investigate ways to preserve sight and to prevent any further loss. The aim of this research was to identify more efficient diagnosis or treatment plans to benefit people who are blind or partially sighted. As part of this programme, Guide Dogs are currently funding three projects:
- An investigation of a potential new therapy for a devastating inherited blindness that affects young children, Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA).
- A study to investigate ways of improving the accuracy and effectiveness of assessing visual fields in children in order to better diagnose and monitor eye conditions.
- A study to investigate how different genes can alter an individual’s risk of developing AMD in later life.
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 2014 the Inspirational Guide Dog Owner of the year award was awarded to Verity Smith and her guide dog Uffa.
Guide Dogs is campaigning against Pavement Parking, a campaign which is now backed by 17 other charitable organisations. The campaign supports the Pavement Parking Bill  which would introduce a nationwide law prohibiting pavement parking across England and Wales, unless specifically permitted.
- List of Guide Dog Schools
- Bradbury Fields – fellow members of the Merseyside Forum for Local Providers
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- International Guide Dog Federation Retrieved 25 March 2010
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- History. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Guide dog of the year 2007, BBC News, 22 March 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2007.
- Guide Dogs volunteering - What can I do Retrieved 8 January 2015
- Guide Dogs campaigns Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Guide Dogs Ophthalmic research Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Guide Dogs research Retrieved 8 January 2015
- Guide Dogs Annual Awards - meet the winners Retrieved 8 January 2015
- Pavement Parking Bill 2014-15 Retrieved 8 January 2015
- Pavement Parking Retrieved 8 January 2015