Guiding Eyes for the blind was founded in 1954 by Donald Z. Kauth in a 19th-century farmhouse. Since then it has graduated over 7,300 guide dog teams and placed 32 service dogs in homes with families challenged by autism. Headquartered in Yorktown Heights New York, thirty-five miles north of New York City, Guiding Eyes for the Blind was the first guide dog training school to be accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Guiding Eyes employs more than 140 people who raise, care and train dogs from their own established gene pool and make them available to recipients free of charge. It depends on donations and a community of more than 1,000 volunteers to provide its numerous programs at no cost to all who use them. Guiding Eyes for the Blind was one of the first schools to accept elderly students and legally blind students who have a degree of residual vision.
Guiding Eyes is an internationally accredited dog school with a 50 year plus legacy of providing the blind and visually impaired with superior Guiding Eyes dogs, training, and lifetime support services. In 1966, Guiding Eyes began breeding their own dogs. This helps them to ensure a reliable resource of quality dogs to train as guide dogs. Prior to that time, extensive time and effort was invested in searching in shelters and other sources for adult dogs and puppies. Today, Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s breeding program supplies more than 90% of the dogs used by the school.
The Canine Development Center (CDC) located in Patterson, NY is where guide dogs begin their careers. The first steps are taken to creating a successful guide dog team: breeding, birthing, socializing, screening, and placing high-potential puppies in loving nurturing puppy-raising homes. The Canine Development Center is at the leading edge of advances in canine genetics, breeding technology, and behavioral development. Over many generations of selective breeding, Guiding Eyes has maximized the qualities required for a working guide dog and minimized health problems that could disrupt or shorten a guide dog’s working years. Each year there are approximately 500 puppies bred at Guiding Eyes and half will become working dogs. The training center has also taken the lead in developing a curriculum and training program for those students with multiple disabilities such as deafness or orthopedic problems, in addition to their visual impairment. The Special Needs Program gives selected guide dogs additional training designed for a specific students unique requirements.
In 2007, the Canine Development Center staff engaged in extensive research in puppy training. In 2008, Guiding Eyes launched the Heeling Autism Program, which provides service dogs to children and families with autism. These special dogs are primary for safety, but they also offer companionship and emotional support. In 2009 the staff worked with design consultants to explore how to effectively develop the CDC’S 30-acre property into a one-of-a-kind facility. Guiding Eyes also acquired an in-house Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Machine (MRI) making it the only guide dog school in the world equipped with this technology. In 2011, Guiding Eyes launched its One Step Ahead campaign. This is fundraising drive to raise $8 million to build a world-class puppy training academy on its Patterson, NY property. The new facility and redesigned grounds will comprise a unique campus that will set the standard for guide dog facilities.
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