International Guide Dog Day is a day set aside to celebrate the empowering effect of Guide Dogs on the lives of visually impaired in our communities. Guide Dogs and their owners who are visually impaired work together as a partnership to navigate their daily routes. A Guide Dog provides Independence, Mobility and Companionship to their owner.
South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind (GDA) was established in 1953 by Gladys Evans after she acquired her first Guide Dog in England. Once Gladys realised how her life was enhanced by her Guide Dog, Sheena, her next goal was to make Guide Dogs accessible to all South Africans who were visually impaired. To date over 1500 Guide Dogs have been trained by GDA.
Future Guide Dog puppies are born at the Gladys Evan Training Centre in Johannesburg. After a year of socialisation with volunteer Puppy Raising families in Johannesburg and Cape Town they are ready to begin their formal training. Guide Dog training takes approximately six months. Once the Guide Dog is fully trained it is matched to a person who is visually impaired. Careful matching to ensure compatibility is very important to the success of the partnership. The new partnership will work together until the Guide Dog retires at about 10 years of age. GDA maintains contact and offers advice and assistance for the working life of the Guide Dog. Most retired Guide Dogs remain with their owner as a pet; some retired Guide Dogs are rehomed by GDA.
A person who is visually impaired will pay R5 for their Guide Dog and R 200 for all of their equipment and training. It costs in excess of R80 000 to provide this service. GDA is a registered non-profit organisation and undertakes fund raising to provide this service to people who are visually impaired.