Guide Dogs WA is to become a centre of excellence for breeding puppies and training Mobility Instructor cadets thanks to an injection of $5 million from the State Government.
Premier, the Hon Mark McGowan visited the Guide Dog training centre in Victoria Park, to officially announce the funding and to pledge his support for the new program.
They will also ensure Guide Dogs WA has the specific dogs required to develop vital programs like Dementia, Court and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Dogs.
Anna Presser, Chief Executive Officer, Guide Dogs WA, says there’s a growing need for Guide and Assistance Dogs and that the pioneering programs will have long-term benefits for the community.
“Up until now, we’ve acquired puppies from interstate purpose-specific breeding programs. COVID-19 demonstrated the challenges with this arrangement. We had problems transporting the puppies to WA because of border restrictions and the reduction in interstate flights,” said Anna.
“We saw a need, and acted upon it to identify, research and develop plans for a world-class WA-based Breeding program, which has received the support of the WA State Government.”
Guide Dogs WA will breed pups from known Guide and Assistance Dog pedigrees to ensure optimum health, genetics and temperament.
Also encompassed under the funding, Guide Dogs WA’s Cadet Training program has commenced and will ensure Western Australia has an ongoing source of highly qualified, internationally accredited Trainers and Guide Dog Mobility Instructors.
“Training a puppy to become a Guide Dog requires commitment, but is hugely rewarding. People don’t realise how highly specialised a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor’s role is and the amount of training that goes into each dog. It costs over $50,000 and takes approximately two years to train each Guide or Assistance Dog,” said Anna.
The latest statistics show the risk of eye disease increases three-fold for each decade over the age of 40. Australia’s aging population means a greater incidence of blindness and vision impairment.
In addition, more Western Australians are being diagnosed with Autism: as many as 1 in 70 people are on the Autism spectrum. Autism diagnoses among Australians has increased by more than 25% since 2015.
The State Government’s $5 million investment will fund the purchase of top quality breeding females and semen, recruitment of genetics expertise, veterinary services, the establishment of an accredited professional training course, recruitment and on-boarding of cadets and volunteers, and ongoing collaboration with international accreditation bodies, amongst other items.
A further $5 million will be required to fund the ongoing continuity of the Breeding and Cadet programs. Guide Dogs WA will raise this funding through fundraising initiatives.
Guide Dogs WA is the original home of Guide Dogs in Australia. Established in Perth in 1951, it provides life-changing Guide and Assistance Dogs.
This year Guide Dogs WA celebrates 70 years changing the lives of Western Australians with low vision, disability or illness.