Dogs For The Disabled is an organization based in the United Kingdom. As they state on their website, http://www.dogsforthedisabled.org: “Dogs for the Disabled is a pioneering charity that trains assistance dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities, and families with a child with autism.” It is an organization that supports those with physical disabilities as well as those with autism-spectrum disorders, which is rare; most organizations that offer assistance animals are geared toward people with primarily physical disabilities, rather than people with intellectual disabilities.
History of Dogs For The Disabled: Dogs For The Disabled was founded by a woman named Frances Hay, who became disabled after a cancerous tumor led to the removal of her leg. She trained several different dogs to assist her with daily life tasks, and later formed a special bond with a dog named Kim. It was this relationship that inspired the founding of Dogs For The Disabled.
Benefits of participating in Dogs For The Disabled
Benefits of participation include, but are not limited to:
- emotional support, encouragement and bonding that comes from pet ownership
- practical guidance and help in navigating daily life activities
- therapeutic benefits, including improved socialization and improved self-expression
- a sense of empowerment in being an owner and care-taker for the dog
Qualifications for participating in Dogs For The Disabled (specific to families with a child who has autism)
- child must have a clinical diagnoses of autism or an autism-spectrum disorder among the known Types Of Autism (see Types Of Autism for more information)
- child with autism must be between the ages of 3 and 10 years old, and be the only child with autism in their particular household
- child and family must live in an area served by Dogs For The Disabled
- family must be willing to welcome a Labrador or golden retriever into their home (Note: Qualifying dogs are selected as early as eight weeks of age; they then spend at least one year with a ‘puppy socializer.’ After this time, they are moved to a highly specialized training center.)
- both parent/primary caregiver and child must be physically mobile, and willing and able to attend various training sessions
Dogs For The Disabled also includes programs for adults and children with physical disabilities, which were the pioneering programs begun in 1988. (The program for children with autism was begun in 2007.) These programs are called the Adult Assistance Dog Service and the Children’s Assistance Dog Service, respectively.
As a non-profit organization, Dogs For The Disabled welcomes donations and participates in various fund-raising events throughout the year. Most recently, the organization was selected to be part of the London Daily Telegraph’s Christmas Appeal. As Peter Gorbing, chief executive of Dogs for the Disabled says, “Learning that we’d been selected as one of the Daily Telegraph’s chosen charities has been tremendously exciting for everyone at Dogs for the Disabled. Every donation we receive makes a really big difference in helping us train more dogs. But the other great news about being selected by the Daily Telegraph is our chance to tell our story to so many more people.”
You can connect with the organization via their website, Dogs For The Disabled.