For people who are blind or have low vision, a seeing eye dog can make a world of difference.
“They build a person’s confidence in being able to navigate the world around them,” Vision Australia chief executive Ron Hooton told AAP.
“It opens up employment opportunities for that individual and it’s also great from a social inclusion perspective. The dog can break down those barriers.”
But dogs with so many responsibilities require lots of training.
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Over a 12-month period, Labrador and Golden Retriever pups are taught how to stay focused despite distractions including people, cars, and other animals.
They also learn special techniques to safely navigate their person around streets and indoor spaces.
Volunteers support the seeing eye dogs through their first 12 months, but the process isn’t cheap. Each puppy that comes through the Vision Australia program costs about $50,000 to raise and train.
“From before they’re even born until the time they graduate, it takes a lot of people and resources to get the dogs to a point where they’re deemed safe enough to be a qualified,” Senior Puppy Development Trainer Kimberley Rulach told AAP.
“So it’s a lot of money to get one dog through. But it’s a really important thing to raise and train dogs that we can give to as many clients as possible.”
Vision Australia has partnered with Petbarn to raise money for its Seeing Eye Dogs program, with a target of $1 million to support 20 dogs.
The appeal last year raised $850,000, but they’re hoping to do even better in 2022.
“One million is a big target but I’m really confident that the generosity of the Australian public will come through again for a campaign that’s been running for nine years now,” Petbarn Foundation Manager Janelle Bloxsom told AAP.
The appeal starts on Monday and runs until July 31. All donations can be made through Petbarn stores or online.
“Get out there and support what is one of Australia’s most worthy causes, to support people who are blind or have low vision to live the life they choose,” Mr Hooton said.