Congratulations to the Successful Advocates for the Civil Rights of Guide and Service Dog Users in Arizona

This morning the Arizona House of Representatives held a hearing on a proposed amendment to a bill which was expected to have widespread and bipartisan support, as it dealt with amusement park safety and replaced an older law which needed to be updated. Unlike the bill, the proposed amendment would have had disastrous consequences for guide and service dog users in Arizona — requiring them to register annually as people with disabilities who needed to use service dogs, requiring their dogs to wear garments identifying themselves and their owners with photo IDs, requiring guide and service dog users to have annual medical appointments to verify their disabilities, and barring service dogs from restaurants and virtually anywhere else owners could claim health code violations. In addition, the proposed amendment would have disavowed the state’s obligation to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Notice of the proposed amendment and the hearing concerning it was released only yesterday, and you can imagine how the blindness and disability communities must have had to scramble to arrive at the hearing this morning and to sign up to testify.


GDUI received great news from Liz Whitlock, president of Guide Dog Users of Arizona, who was able to attend the hearing and to share the good news with all of us that advocacy worked extremely well to defeat the amendment. It went down “in flames,” by an 8 to 0 vote against its  inclusion in the bill.


GDUI wants to congratulate Liz and all of the members of GDUAZ on successfully defeating this proposed draconian legislation.


In addition to showing up at the hearing and signing up to testify, many members of GDUAZ wrote compelling letters to their representatives and to the chair of the committee who had introduced the amendment. Ron Brooks wrote one of the most effective letters related to advocacy for civil rights and against restricting those rights any of us has ever seen.


I am sharing Liz’s message to me concerning today’s outcome, and I know that all of you join me in congratulating GDUAZ, and the blindness and disability communities — even as we remind ourselves that we must remain ever vigilant to preserve and defend our hard-won civil rights!


Here is Liz’s message:


Hi Penny,

Good News from Arizona.   The amendment failed to the proposal, 8-0.  The

room was filled with guide dog users, service dog users, trainers, attorneys

(speaking on behalf of illegalities), agencies representing the blind and

visually impaired community, and even one person from the restaurant

industry.  I was slotted to speak, but a ways down the list.  After 16 or 17

people has spoken in opposition of the amendment, the committee recessed and

took a vote.

We are thankful that the proposition did not go through, and will keep a

close eye to ensure it does not pop up again.


Thanks for the support,

Liz Whitlock


Dear GDUI Members and Friends,

While 93 guide dogs and around 150 of us women and men were enjoying ourselves at Top Dog-Charleston, February arrived! Before you know it, we’ll be thinking about daffodils and asparagus and trying to persuade our dogs to steer clear of the March mud. Meanwhile, staying warm is still a priority for most of us as the snows of 2015 just keep on coming.


Top Dog-Charleston was absolutely fabulous! We’re still basking in the warmth of all those Southern hugs and the great hospitality that was extended to every guest — canine and human — at the Top Dog event! GDUI even received a beautiful plaque to thank us for our support of Top Dog. It is really we who should be giving all of you a plaque of appreciation. We are grateful that you didn’t give up on GDUI and that you, like so many of our affiliates and at-large members, have joined new leadership in GDUI to restore democracy and renew our shared commitment to one another and to the guide dog community.


There were nine schools represented at Top Dog. Their updates were interesting and reassuring. Although raising funds is a never-ending obligation for every guide dog training program, all of the schools remain committed primarily to the priority of providing the kinds of dogs who will be healthy, reliable guides, and matching their training programs to the needs of blind and visually impaired people living in the 21st Century.


There was an informational session on the topic of misrepresentation of pets as service animals, and an informative presentation concerning medical interventions that we can provide at home for injuries or minor illnesses that can affect our dogs. There was an interesting presentation from a canine massage therapist, and he even stayed for an extra hour to provide massages for some of the Top Dogs in attendance. Puppy raisers for several schools shared their stories — all of which made us love puppy raisers even more than we already did! That Frogmore Stew is one delicious dish (no, there are no frogs in Frogmore Stew!), as was every other Southern specialty we were lucky enough to sample. Gullah Geechee gospel music was a new — and wonderful– experience for many of us, and we thank Audrey and the other Top Dog planners for allowing us to enjoy the talented women and men who entertained us during the Saturday evening banquet, and Laurel Jean whose many talents continue to amaze us, as well.


I want to congratulate Ann Marie Medlar from Florida, the lucky winner of sweet hand-made and harnessed Ashley Cooper. I’m sure he will enjoy a happy future with you or whomever you choose to share him with. Thank you to Top Dog for sharing all of the proceeds from the Ashley Cooper drawing with GDUI. The drawing raised $625.00, and with GDUI elections for revised bylaws and directors coming up, as well as new issues of PawTracks, and the summer convention, we promise to put that donation to good and productive uses.


I could go on and on, but there are a few more announcements I need to get to — so, start saving your pennies. You won’t want to miss Top Dog-Florida in 2017. And for more informative presentations, updates from the guide dog training programs, and shared stories and camaraderie, remember the Guide Dog Users, Inc. convention will be coming right up, on July 5, in Dallas!


Debbie Grub, GDUI’s Affiliates’ Liaison, and I want to thank Frank Welte and the GDUC board of directors for the very productive telephonic conversation we had last Sunday. We look forward to the day when GDUC joins GDUI once again as an affiliate, and meanwhile, we continue to treasure the friendships we share with one another and the mutual commitment we have toward our shared mission and goals.


Finally, I want to announce a new — and painless — way for you to contribute to Guide Dog Users, Inc. Now you can support GDUI when you shop at (And who doesn’t spend at least a few minutes and a few dollars online at Amazon at least a couple of times each week?) contributes 0.5 percent of the price of each purchase to not-for-profit corporations registered with their SMILE program, and now GDUI will benefit through this program as well. Follow this link to designate GDUI as the recipient of 0.5 percent of the cost of your purchases whenever you shop at


Thank you all for your friendship and support. We will be back next week with announcements and a reminder about our up-coming Town Hall Meeting for GDUI Members and Friends, scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, on St. Valentine’s Day, February 14.


Penny Reeder, President

Guide Dog Users, Inc.


Will Burley, First Vice President

Guide Dog Users, Inc.

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For our members and friends who do not have access to e-mail (or prefer to listen to the pleasant sound of a human voice reading aloud), we also offer telephonic announcements every week. If you are aware of guide dog users who do not have computer access, please share this telephone number with them: 646-653-1900. Recorded announcements available at this number are updated each Tuesday.

We look forward to sharing announcements concerning our organization with all who are interested in GDUI.