It’s now a quarter of a century since Dogs for the Disabled was set up and the great news is that this wonderful, life-transforming charity, is going from strength to strength…
Dogs for the Disabled has come a long way since Frances Hay,inspired by the help she received from her own dog Kim after she lost a leg at the age of 16, established the charity in 1988. In 2000, it opened its training headquarters – The Frances Hay Centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire – and, in 2004, the charity became the first in the UK to train dogs to help young people with disabilities.
Freedom and independence
Steve Billington, Marketing Director of Dogs for the Disabled, says: “Although Frances Hay died in 1990, her legacy is a life-transforming charity, creating exceptional partnerships between people living with disability and specially trained assistance dogs. Through practical assistance, a dog can offer freedom and independence.” Initially, the charity’s assistance dogs were trained to help adults only but, in 2004, it introduced the first assistance dogs for physically disabled children. A year later, the first regional office in the South West, located in Bristol, opened, followed in 2008 by the Northern centre at Nostell, Yorkshire. Next came PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support), which was set up in 2010 to provide practical demonstrations of the benefits of training a family pet dog to help autistic children.Steve continues: “Currently, there are 278 assistance dogs working in partnership with adults, children and families with a child with autism, 36 dogs (including Ava, sponsored by James Wellbeloved!) in training and 69 puppies out with volunteer puppy socialisers.” All this is even more astonishing when you consider that the charity receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations and fundraising to meet its £3 million annual running costs. Steve adds: “There are many more people we could help – we receive more than 2,000 requests a year.”
The next 25 years
With various 25th anniversary celebrations taking place throughout 2013 – including a £25 individual gift appeal, sponsorship of the 25th anniversary puppy, Silver, a Skydive and the Ben Nevis 25th Anniversary Challenge Trek – the charity is already looking forward to the next 25 years. Exciting new projects include a collaboration with Alzheimer Scotland to train dogs to help people affected by dementia. Core tasks include support for daily living routines such as walking, eating, getting exercise and going to bed, and prompts to take medicine and drink fluids. Dogs can also act as an ‘emotional anchor’ by making someone feel safe when they’re alone or confused.Steve says: “Dogs for the Disabled has been on a fantastic journey over the last 25 years and we can’t wait to see what we can achieve – with the help of all our supporters – in the next 25 years and beyond.”
Did you know?
The number of assistance dogs working in partnership with adults with a disability
The total number of assistance dogs trained by Dogs for the Disabled
How much it costs to fund a dog from birth to fully trained assistance dog
How much is costs to fund a dog for its working life
As well a sponsoring Ava, James Wellbeloved provides food for puppies, dogs in training and fully qualified working assistance dogs. Our nutrition experts also provide health and nutrition advice to the charity’s training staff.