Founded in 1946, The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. provides independence for people who are blind, visually impaired, or with other disabilities through the use of guide and service dogs, collectively known as assistance dogs. Guide dogs help people with visual disabilities move about safely and confidently. Service dogs are trained to pick up dropped articles, open doors, push elevator buttons, warn of seizures, pull wheelchairs and act as ‘walking canes’ for people with amputations and balance problems and include assistance, therapy, facility, and companion dogs. At the Guide Dog Foundation we breed, raise and train our own puppies, instruct persons on their use and provide a lifetime of aftercare support for the active team of handler and dog.
As the only assistance dog school in the United States to be accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International, the two international regulatory bodies that certify guide and service dog schools on a voluntary basis, we have discovered how guide and service dog training can complement each other. Our guide dogs can now provide additional skills such as balance and stability for our blind recipients who may develop additional mobility problems as they age. And for our service dogs, guiding skills such as “intelligent disobedience” can be taught so a disabled veteran with traumatic brain injuries and cognitive problems will feel safe crossing a street or encountering a danger. Each day is a new challenge as we serve people with disabilities.
During our FY 2015, thousands of people including Americans with disabilities, veterans and active military will be directly impacted through the Guide Dog Foundation. This includes people partnering with guide and service dogs, servicemen and women at military hospitals and VA centers for physical and occupational therapy as well as persons benefiting from therapy and facility dogs.
We estimate the cost to breed, train, and place a guide or service dog, combined with the training, transportation and housing of the team, and a lifetime of aftercare services is in excess of $50,000 per team, and all services and equipment are provided free of charge to blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled persons. We receive no government funding, and depend completely on generous donors and supporters to continue our services, and expand our ability to serve the increasing numbers of disabled persons requesting our specially trained dogs.
Today we are faced with increased demands by veterans, active military personnel and the returning wounded as our men and women come home with life-altering injuries such as amputated limbs, blindness, paralysis, serious burns, traumatic brain injuries and severe emotional trauma. Many of these veterans can also benefit from our specially trained assistance dogs.
Additionally, a guide dog must know to disobey any command that would put the handler in danger. This ability, called intelligent disobedience, is perhaps the most amazing thing about guide dogs; that they can balance obedience with their own assessment of the situation.
Wells Jones has more than 35 years' experience in national and regional not-for-profit management. Since 1989, he has served as chief executive officer of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc., and as president and CEO of America's VetDogs since 2006.
From the agency’s Smithtown, Long Island, New York, headquarters, Jones has implemented innovative development and program strategies that have seen the organization experience tremendous growth in both charitable revenue generated and numbers of blind and visually impaired individuals served.
Jones’s dedicated desire to optimize donated dollars and keep fundraising costs low was recently recognized by Reader’s Digest, naming the Foundation the number one charity in the nation that serves individuals with disabilities.
Under his leadership, the Guide Dog Foundation undertook a major capital expansion in 2002, which culminated with the construction of a new training center, complete with a state-of-the-art kennel, as well as a newly designed student residence hall. Jones’s vision of development is evident with the creation of America's VetDogs, to expand the Guide Dog Foundation's outreach to disabled veterans and active service members. With Jones’s strong leadership and innovative initiatives, the Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs will continue to develop new programs to meet the growing needs of people with disabilities.
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