Need a Guide Dog? Don't hold your breath...
Guide Dog owners encounter a wait of almost 12 months before they can receive a new dog after their current guide dog retires from service.
Published on the 30/04/2019, 09:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:47
While guide dogs give many people without their sight a valued independence, only a very small percentage of visually impaired adults in the UK have access to a service dog. Many who apply, especially those who are applying for a replacement guide dog after their own service dog retires, face a waiting list of around a year.
A huge amount of training and care needed for each guide dog
In the UK each year, more than 1400 canines are trained to become guide dogs. Yet there is an immense amount of work required to get the dog ready before he is handed over to a visually impaired person. The matching process is quite involved and often delicate.
People need these guide dogs to provide different services - some are used for errands while others have to fit into households with children. Many office workers use guide dogs, and often travel on public transport. Consideration also has to be given to how old the recipient is, their temperament, how fast they walk. This matching process itself can be quite time consuming which means a long wait for many blind people.
Many guide dog users are giving up on the long waiting list
Eddie Warke, a 52-year-old from Dundonald, had a previous guide dog, Creighton, who was retired due to health issues. Eddie has been waiting for two years for his new service dog and has now had to revert to using his cane, which itself causes problems when outdoors. Although Eddie has had 3 attempted matches with new dogs, none of them have turned out to be suitable for his needs and capabilities.
Stephen Campbell, a Paralympian athlete applied for his second guide dog in 2018, 3 years after his first dog Finn, retired from service. Stephen returned to using his cane, which he claims took around a year to adapt to again. He is hoping that the long wait wont be too excessive for his new guide dog as it gives him so much more independence, not only at work but in his personal life too.
As demand increases for a guide dog, many visually impaired people face long waits of more than 12 months to obtain this life-changing help. If you require further information, contact the Guide Dogs UK Charity.