Vision Australia is searching for more volunteer Seeing Eye Dog carers to assist in training a puppy before they are assigned to help a person who is vision impaired.
Volunteers care for a puppy from when they are approximately eight weeks old until around 12-15 months, teaching them how to socialise, understand the world and develop the necessary skills to aid a person with impaired vision.
Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs puppy development trainer Britt McCarthy said the puppies assisted individuals and helped them undertake everyday tasks that were taken for granted.
“They allow people to return to work, go to the supermarket, bakery and the bank,” Ms McCarthy said.
“They will also have the confidence the dog will be able to get them there safely.
“Seeing Eye Dogs are so important to the vision impaired community, they help give people the freedom of independence.”
The process for becoming a volunteer puppy carer involves a series of background checks and inspections.
There is an initial set of assessment questions, an external risk assessment form, Working with Children Check, police check and a property inspection.
Ms McCarthy said no prior dog training experience was required to be a volunteer.
“We are looking for people who have the time and commitment to have a puppy for around 12 months to put some love and time into them,” Ms McCarthy said.
“We teach the volunteers how to train the dogs and we supply all the food, medical costs and anything that is required during training.
“During this time they are supported by a puppy development trainer who comes and helps with the training.”
Ms McCarthy said there was a wait time for people who required a Seeing Eye Dog.
“For people in need there is an approximate wait time of between six to 12 months to receive a trained puppy that will assist them,” she said.
Volunteer puppy carer Georgina Smith praised her experience of caring for a puppy.
“It can be a fair bit of an experience for the dog too, it’s like bringing home a baby.” Mrs Smith said.
Mrs Smith has been a volunteer for approximately three years and is currently caring for Panda, her fifth puppy she has provided a home for.
She outlined one of the key factors when caring for the puppies is to normalise the puppy to the outside world.
“They have to fit into our lifestyle, not the other way around,” she said.
“Panda comes everywhere with me. To the shops, doctors...absolutely everywhere.
“Dogs in training have the same rights as full working dogs so we’re allowed to go anywhere with them.”
According to Vision Australia there are approximately 384,000 people in Australia who are blind or who have low vision.
Based on ABS population projections Vision Australia predicts there will be approximately 564,000 blind and people with low vision in the country by 2030.
Vison Australia will be be holding a volunteer information night on Thursday April 19 from 6 pm-7 pm at their Bendigo office located at 20 Bridge Street.
For more information phone 1800 03 77 73 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.