Tough times for guide dogs

The recession means less money for schools that train guide dogs for the blind.

“There are schools that are struggling now, the smaller schools particularly,” said Sandy Turney, executive director of Guide Dogs Canada in Oakville, Ont.

“We have different sources of funds, but it’s a tough go for people. . . . I think in Canada we really were on a good growth path. It’s just whether we can keep it up across the country.”

Canada was a latecomer to the international guide dog movement, which took shape in Europe in the 1920s and first reached North America in 1929. Canada’s first school dedicated to the training of dogs for the blind did not open its doors until 1981, when Eric St-Pierre founded the Mira Foundation, located near Montreal.

Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind matched its first teams in 1984 at its training centre 30 minutes south of Ottawa, while Oakville’s Guide Dogs Canada launched its program in 1985 with the assistance of the Lion’s Foundation. BC Guide Dog Services, which caters only to clients living in British Columbia and Alberta, was founded in 1996.

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