TOP DOG 2017

SAVE The DATE
TOP DOG 2017
Sponsored by Guide Dog Users of Florida, Georgia Guide Dog Users and Dixieland Guide Dog Users

Event Dates: Thursday, January 12, 2017 through Sunday, January 15, 2017.

Location: Orlando, Florida, Holiday Inn and Suites Across From Universal Orlando

Room Rate: $89.00 per night with an additional 12.5% applicable taxes

Deluxe rooms are also available at reduced rates

Hotel rates are in effect three days prior and post event dates

We are bringing a very delicious and affordable food package

Guide Dog Users of Florida is excited to host Top Dog 2017 with the able assistance of our friends in Georgia Guide Dog Users and Dixieland Guide Dog Users. As we move forward with event planning, I will be sending out requests for your ideas for programming and fun activities, so start thinking about that. If you have questions or comments now, please feel free to contact me at the information below my signature.

Every Top Dog program brings us to a higher level. With your assistance and participation, we believe that Top Dog2017 will be no exception to this historical reality.

Please feel free to spread this announcement far and wide. All guide dog users and those interested in the movement are welcome to join us for exciting and educational programming and the opportunity to engage an meaningful fellowship and friendship building. Please plan to join us.

Respectfully,
Debbie Grubb, Event Coordinator

Kathleen Trutschel, Registrar

Debbie Grubb
Debbiecgrubb1@gmail.com

The Booty Dilemma

By Ann Chiappetta

Yes, it’s that time of year again, so dust off those fleece lined boots and air out your winter coats, gloves and hats. Don’t forget the lip balm and sunglasses for chapped skin and snow glare.

While we’re on the subject of winter accoutrements for the two-footed species, being a dog owner and most importantly, a guide dog handler, I am reminded to make sure Bailey has his winter outerwear as well.

The type of doggie gear I am referring to is the dreaded booties. I don’t think any dog likes them, but rather, dogs tolerate them. Some dogs refuse to wear them. Bailey, thankfully, is putting up with them, preferring them to ice-crusted toes. We trained together in March in New York and it was still frigid, cold and wet during training. We had plenty of booty practice during class.
Brrr, sounds uncomfortable, right? So, then why do dogs dislike booties? Why, if they are above the grade in intelligence because they are guide dogs, can’t they at least embrace the booties?

This is what I say to Bailey when he assumes a defeated posture whenever I bring out the footwear and ask for a paw. If I were a dog and I had to slosh through icy water I think I’d want some protection, right?
First, the tail drops, then the head droops and the ears hang low, and finally, dejectedly, he allows me to pick up a foot and insert a paw into a booty.
If that isn’t bad enough, he assumes the duck walk, which is very humiliating for a dignified Labrador. I realized how much she disliked his booties by the mere fact that he will not take the proffered treat after a paw insertion. Thankfully, after ten minutes or so, the duck walk becomes a prance and the tail and head return to almost normal as we tromp outside into the cold, wet, salt sprinkled weather,
“It’s better than cold feet, right?”
I say as the wind whips past my collar and stings my face and cheeks. He shakes and I wish I could read his thoughts. My mothering instincts know that his big, dumbo ears are getting colder by the minute. I wonder if someone has considered inventing doggie ear muffs, and if I could get him to wear them.

Announcements for the Week of July 25, 2015

Dear GDUI Members and Friends,

GDUI Plans Response to new DOJ Technical Assistance Guidance Regarding Service Animals: In early July, the U. S. Department of Justice released a new publication featuring additional technical guidance regarding service animals, available here:
http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html. The publication is intended to compliment the DOJ publication (published in July of
2011) which GDUI recommends for answers to questions about the civil rights of guide dog users, called “ADA 2010 Revised Requirements.”
According to the DOJ, the new brochure provides practical insight into several so-called “thorny issues” that frequently arise with regard to the definition of service animals, the civil rights of people with disabilities who rely on them, and certain limited restrictions on their access to various venues.

GDUI is concerned about the purported clarification provided in this latest brochure and I have asked Charlie Crawford, who was one of the first GDUI members to bring these concerns to our attention, to form a task force to evaluate the latest guidance provided by the DOJ, and to help us to formulate an appropriate response. The task force will be working closely with Becky Davidson, Chair of GDUI’s Advocacy Committee, and Ginger Kutsch, Chair of GDUI’s Legislative Committee, and others who agree to participate and we look forward to their findings and guidance. Thank you, Charlie, and Becky and Ginger.

GDUI Board Members Step Up to Handle Office Manager Responsibilities:
In addition to handling all her expected secretarial duties including daily correspondence and interfacing with our Treasurer and the Budget and Finance Committee, GDUI’s secretary, Sarah Calhoun, is now answering all of the calls that come into GDUI’s toll-free number, 866.799.8436, and handling product sales, both via phone and online, as well. Dixie Sanderson is putting her database experience to good use in the service of GDUI and will now be adding membership information to ACB’s AMS database for our affiliate. Thanks to everyone’s spirit of cooperation, the transition from Jane Sheehan’s service as office manager to a new administrative model is going smoothly, and GDUI thanks Jane, Sarah, Dixie, members of the GDUI Executive Committee, and others for their generosity with time and talents, and a “Can Do” attitude that continues to serve GDUI so well.

The Issue of Follow-Up Services for California Residents Who are Graduates of Guide Dog Training Programs Not Based in California: Many GDUI members attended the July 20 meeting of the California State Guide Dog Board where the issue of restricting follow-up services for California graduates from International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF)-accredited guide dog schools whose instructors have not been licensed by that board was an important topic for discussion. We shared our organizational concern regarding this issue in a letter sent to the CA State Board in advance of the July 20 meeting, and with members and friends in a GDUI-announcement released in mid-July. We appreciate everyone’s attendance at the teleconference meeting and the continued support so many guide dog users from across the country are expressing for the right of California residents to count on quality and timely after-care from their schools. The CA State Guide Dog Board decided – at that July 20 meeting – to form a task force to define the meaning and scope of after-care. We expect at least one representative from GDUI to participate on this task force. GDUI appreciates the Board’s decision to create a task force to define “after care” for guide dog teams as a gesture of conciliation. However, this limited effort fails to address the needs of those Californians who require immediate assistance, and cannot be construed as consumer protection.

GDUI will send a letter to the governor of California as well as to all California legislators urging them to evaluate the Board’s role, especially with respect to their recent attempts to restrict IGDF-accredited schools whose instructors are not licensed by the Board from providing after-care services to California guide dog handlers. We urge all of our members, especially those who live or are contemplating living in California, to contact the governor and their legislators to express their concern about this important issue.
The California Legislature will return to session on August 17.

A Lovely Thank You Note from the Seeing Eye: Many of the school representatives who assisted us at our convention in Dallas and who attended our reception thanked us personally for the event and the tribute booklet during the week of convention. Then, GDUI received this beautiful thank you from Jim Kutsch, President and CEO of The Seeing Eye. I am sharing it here to thank, not only the GDUI 2015 Convention Program Committee who conceived of this idea and carried it through so successfully, but all of our members and friends who honored their guide dogs and schools by helping to sponsor the Deep in the Hearts of Guide Dogs, Guide Dog Schools Reception, which we held on July 6, at the GDUI convention. Here’s Jim’s note:

“Thank you for the guide dog school appreciation reception at the ACB Convention in Dallas last week. I can tell you that The Seeing Eye team was very touched by the reception and the tribute booklet. The efforts by GDUI and its members to express their appreciation to staff members at all schools is truly meaningful. We are placing the book in our dining room for everyone to browse.

Regards,
Jim
James A. Kutsch Jr., PhD
President and CEO
The Seeing Eye, Inc.”

Another Delightful Thank You Note: Audrey Gunter, the most deserving winner of GDUI’s Moffitt-Gleitz award, sent us this wonderful thank you note.
“Dear Penny and My Other GDUI Family,
Thank you so very much for the confidence and support you all have shown by awarding us the Moffitt-Gleitz plaque. I wish that I felt worthy of such recognition. The words, ‘…for outstanding service and commitment to the canine/human partnership’ certainly ring true for most GDUI guide teams. Anything we have ever accomplished or achieved was truly a result of a united group effort, with the help and guidance of GDUI’s officers and advocacy directors. All that I do on behalf of my school or my beloved GDUI is indeed a labor of love and comes directly from my heart.
I am extremely proud of GDUI’s new leadership and am delighted to be considered a part of such an admirable group.

Thank you again for your confidence and support.
Blessings,
Audrey &Jessie”

And One More Thank You and Brief Convention Update: From our 2015 Convention Program Committee Chairperson, Lillian Scaife:
“Dear GDUI Supporters,
On behalf of everyone at GDUI, we would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to all those who helped make our 2015 GDUI Convention a great success! Attendees (on and off-site), Donors, Vendors, Volunteers, Presenters, and Dallas Raffle and Silent Auction participants, we counted on all of you, and you all came through for us in such a big way! Thank you.

We want to send special congratulations to the winner of Dallas, who is a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and volunteered to help at the convention! And, of course, we congratulate all the successful bidders at our GDUI Silent Auction, and summer raffle winners as well!

The winner of Dallas (our Beautiful Stuffed Plush Black Lab) is Janet Mills of Dallas, Texas, who is a Puppy Raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc. and worked as a volunteer for GDUI during our Deep in the Hearts of Guide Dogs Convention!
Janet says, ‘I have Marni, my pup-in-training, an 8-month-old female black Lab; Rhythm, a career-change female, yellow Lab from Southeastern, 12 years old; and Walker, a career-change male black Lab from Southeastern , 8 years old. they are a pretty good bunch!!’

We are so happy that Janet can add our beautiful plush Dallas to her bunch!

The total raised from our convention silent Auction was $4,233.00!
Thank you, all.”

The 2016 GDUI and ACB Conference and Convention: Here’s the announcement from Janet Dickelman, ACB’s convention coordinator. “We will be at the Hyatt Regency hotel, 1300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403. The first ACB convention tour is scheduled for Friday, July 1st, opening ACB general session Sunday, the 3rd, ACB banquet Friday, the 8th.”

So GDUI’s convention will begin on Monday, July 4 (Independence Day, How appropriate!), and go through Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

Janet tells us, “The hyatt did some remodeling so everything will be under one roof, no overflow hotel. Rates are $89 for single or double occupancy. You can add in up to two additional people at $10 per person.”

You can expect to find additional information regarding the 2016 ACB conference and convention on ACB’s web site, http://www.acb.org, soon.

Before we know it, August will arrive and summer will be winding down.
Let’s all enjoy this last month of summer sunshine. Be safe and happy.
As always, thank you all for your interest in GDUI and your support.
Sincerely,
Penny Reeder, President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
mailto:President@GuideDogUsersInc.org
Will Burley, First Vice President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
mailto:vp1@GuideDogUsersInc.org

http://www.guidedogusersinc.org/
Call us, toll-free, at 866.799.8436
Like and visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GDUInc Follow us at Twitter: @GDUInc

Support GDUI when you use this link to shop at Amazon.com:
http://smile.amazon.com/ch/52-1871119.

To join the GDUI-Announce List, visit this link:
http://www.acblists.org/mailman/listinfo/gdui-announce

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 whenever there is a new announcement to share. We look forward to sharing announcements concerning our organization with all who are interested in GDUI.

Guide Dog School Tribute Booklet

Dear GDUI members and friends,

Thank you so much for your contribution to GDUI’s guide dog school appreciation reception held in Dallas at this year’s national convention. With your help, the event was a huge success! There were 33 guide dog school staff members representing 11 schools, and about 100 additional guests in attendance. Each school at the event received the Tribute Booklet and the remaining booklets have been sent out to the other schools.

As a token of our appreciation for your support, please accept your own copy of the electronic versions of the Tribute Booklet. The booklet may be viewed online at:
http://guidedogusersinc.org/2015-convention/guide-dog-school-reception-sponsorship/2015-guide-dog-school-tribute/

Sincerely,

GDUI 2015 Programs Committee

Announcements for the Week of July 20, 2015

Dear GDUI Members and Friends,

Our Deep in the Hearts of Guide Dogs GDUI Convention is beginning to fade into memory – a blissfully happy memory for sure! – as we begin, slo-o-o-o-w-ly, to catch up on sleep and move on with summer plans and the second year of our GDUI administration! If you were there and we were lucky enough to connect with you in the suite or during one of our program segments, at our delicious and entertaining GDUI luncheon, in ACB General Sessions, at Resolutions late at night, at the Mad Hatter Cafe, or our Guide Dog Schools Appreciation Reception, or while scurrying back and forth across the Sky-bridge – we loved connecting with you. If you missed the Dallas convention, we hope you’ll begin making plans to be at the Hyatt in Minneapolis next summer! (Willow is already compiling her 2016 GDUI Suite Wish List. After all, she managed to convince me to buy only two of her favorite ‘alien’ toys on the products table, and – she pointed this out to me several times! — there were more there!) Convention Highlights I have received lovely messages from our members who shared time with us in Dallas. Here’s a sampling:
From Minh Ha – “Firstly, I want to say thank you to you and the board and the rest of the committees for putting on a great program and making the GDUI suite such a welcoming place. I had so much fun whenever I walked into the suite and it was a nice place for Viva to hang out and get spoiled by me.”

Minh is a busy graduate student, but she would like to become more actively involved in GDUI, and we welcome her – and all of our members’ — involvement! (Minh, I’m sending you that list of committees soon.)

From Melvin Smith: “I wanted to let you know I had a nice time in the suite with the Louisville ladies, they are awesome! And great help.
The reception, luncheon, and the program were5 star events. It was nice meeting persons who are behind the e-mails I read every day here on the list. I cannot wait to help GDUI again for the next convention.”

Melvin, we couldn’t agree more – Jane Woods and Connie Smith are absolutely awesome! We’re glad you had fun, and we’re looking forward to next summer as well.

Our Deep in the Hearts of Guide Dogs, Guide Dog School Appreciation Reception was all that we hoped it would be – a way to express our appreciation to all of our schools and the trainers and staff persons who make it possible for us to succeed as members of guide dog teams every single day. The trainers who attend our convention, help with orientation and picking-up, and on walks to and from breakfast club, present interesting topics at GDUI program events, and are anywhere and everywhere we need them to be – you are so wonderful, there will never be enough words to express our appreciation! We hope our reception let you know just how grateful we all are. The Deep in the Hearts of Guide Dogs, Guide Dog Schools Appreciation Tribute Booklet is online here:
http://guidedogusersinc.org/2015-convention/guide-dog-school-reception-sponsorship/2015-guide-dog-school-tribute.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the booklet and helped to sponsor our event.

The Prize Winners! We won’t keep you in suspense any longer! We know you’re eager to know who won! Janet Mills is a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and she (and her ninth puppy) volunteered for us at the convention. Congratulations to Janet who is the winner of Dallas!

There was a great deal of spirited competition for the 12 dozen Cookies that will be coming from Penny’s Kitchen. In September, I will be mailing the first batch to Melvin Smith in Kansas City, MO!

And, the winner of the $1,000 cash prize in the Summer Drawing is Charles Naveretti, who lives in California. Congratulations, Charles!

Other winners’ names have been shared on the chat list, in the case of the Summer Drawing, and will be posted soon on the Silent Auction Page on our web site, http://guidedogusersinc.org/2015-convention/silent-auction/.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our fund-raisers, to so many generous donors who contributed items to our Silent Auction and to the Summer Drawing as well, to all of those who worked in the suite to collect bids and let folks know whose bid was surpassing whose, thank you to Jane Sheehan and Vickie Curley and to Bob Acosta who worked so hard on the summer drawing, and thank you to everyone who placed bids on Dallas – We are so pleased he’s going to such a deserving new home!

GDUI Awards We want to thank Becky Davidson and Jane Sheehan who worked on our Awards Committee, selecting three very deserving people to honor, and spent endless hours shopping for just the right company to prepare our print-and-braille awards plaques. Congratulations to Audrey Gunter, winner of the Moffitt-gleitz Award, which honors a person who is blind who has contributed significantly to the human-canine bond. Congratulations to Kathy Zubrycki, winner of the ETHEL BENDER AWARD, which celebrates the accomplishments of a sighted person who has contributed significantly to that human-canine bond.
And, congratulations to Rebecca Kragnes, who is the winner of this year’s GDUI Excellence in Writing Award, for her outstanding and informative ongoing PawTracks series, “Preaching to the Choir,” and her steadfast commitment to excellent canine-human partnerships.

Read about Carla Campbell’s Wonderful Doggie Massages in the GDUI Suite in this great article from the Dallas News,
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150708-canine-massage-therapist-helps-
. Carla restored equanimity for so many guide dogs at her Canine Massage Station in the GDUI Suite, and she taught many folks how to keep those good vibes going even after they return home during two well-attended workshops. Thank you, Carla! You’re the best!

Jenine Stanley, who called herself a Warrior, spent many hours monitoring recordings of GDUI convention program events and on several other important front-lines as well. Thank you, Jenine, for your many contributions to our successful convention. Jenine is still evaluating and editing the program recordings. We will let you know when they become available online. We hope to share as many recordings of our informative program events as possible with all our members, whether or not you could come to our Dallas convention.

There will be other Deep in the Hearts of Guide Dogs Convention wrap-up information in the next issue of PawTracks. Until that fall issue, let us thank our GDUI Convention Program Chair, Lillian Scaife, and her committee members one more time. Thank you, you are all absolutely awesome! Thank you, Lillian, for agreeing to do it all over again as the GDUI Program Chairperson for 2016. We hope that all of your amazing, energetic committee members will want to reconvene to plan and manage our 2016 convention next summer in Minneapolis.

The July GDUI Board Meeting was held at convention on Sunday, July 5.
We were so fortunate to have many GDUI officers and board members at the in-person meeting, and several guests as well. Those who could not attend participated via telephone, and although the connection wasn’t perfect, (it was slightly better than the paper-cups-connected-via-string system that many of us discovered in third grade!) we managed to get some important business accomplished.
One item on our agenda concerned the recordings of these weekly announcements which Bob Acosta prepares each week. The number of callers who take advantage of this telephonic access has dwindled, and Bob asked us to consider whether or not we want to continue providing this service for our members who don’t have e-mail access or choose not to access these announcements online. The board decided we should conduct an informal survey of our members, and that’s what I’m doing
here: If you like our telephonic recorded announcements and believe we should continue to provide them, please get in touch with me or Bob, and let us know. Also, if you enjoy our announcements and know other guide dog users who might enjoy them as well, please share the call-in number (located at the end of this announcement) with them.

To access the recording of the July 5, 2015, GDUI Board Meeting, visit:
Drop Box:

Send Space:
https://www.sendspace.com/file/y0g4z1

By telephone: Play back number:
712.432.1085,
Access code: 919245.

Thank you to Jane Sheehan! For personal reasons, Jane has decided to step down from her position as Office Manager. We appreciate your filling this role so ably, Jane, over the past year, and we are so glad that you will remain on GDUI’s board to continue your involvement with GDUI and to share your energy and wisdom with us. Thank you.

The California State Guide Dog Board Issue:
GDUI introduced a resolution to the American Council of the Blind convention for their consideration concerning the California State Guide Dog Board’s recent re-interpretation of their mission which has prevented instructors who are not licensed in California but who are from International Guide Dog Federation-certified schools from providing follow-up services for our members who live in CA and who have chosen to attend out-of-state guide dog training programs. We are so pleased that ACB members, assembled in convention in Dallas, on Friday, July 10, unanimously adopted the resolution, which I am pasting below.

The California State Guide Dog Board will be meeting on Monday, July 20, at 1:00 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time, to discuss this important issue again. GDUI urges all of our members to participate in this publicly accessible call, especially if your guide dog training has been provided by an IGDF-certified school whose instructors have not been licensed by the California State Guide Dog Board.

Call the Teleconference Phone Number: 866.692.3158, and use this Participant Code: 99686782.

GDUI submitted a comment by postal mail and e-mail to the California State Guide Dog Board on this important issue, and we will share it in a separate announcement. Meanwhile, here is the resolution adopted by the ACB convention on Friday, July 10:

ACB Resolution 2015-15
WHEREAS, around 1948, the California legislature created the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind (the board), pursuant to Section 7200.5 of the state’s Business and Professions Code; and

WHEREAS, the Board rapidly developed procedures governing the development of guide dog training programs (called schools), fund-raising for such programs, and the licensing of the schools and their instructors; and

WHEREAS, thanks to the Board’s efforts, California became the first and only state to mandate regulations for certifying the quality of guide dog training programs and the competency of instructors through a comprehensive examination and licensing procedure for California schools and their instructors and for instructors from out of state who seek to serve students in California even with after-care; and

Whereas, since 1989, the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), an international association of guide dog schools, which has grown to at least 80 member schools worldwide, has required its member schools to undergo an accreditation protocol that is at least as rigorous as the California state licensure requirements for guide dog schools and instructors; and

Whereas, in recent years the board has, contrary to its earlier practice, begun to strictly enforce state regulations that prohibit the activities of unlicensed instructors in California to the extent that instructors from IGDF-accredited schools, regardless of the demonstrated abilities of these instructors, or the accreditation from the IGDF achieved by these schools, are prohibited from providing after-care services to graduates of these schools unless the particular instructors providing such services have been individually licensed by the State of California, and Board; and

Whereas these practices punish California guide dog users for choosing to receive their training from out-of-state schools, including schools with a long-standing track record of providing outstanding services to their students, and

Whereas an inability to receive after-care in a timely manner from instructors who have familiarity with their graduates and their dogs and who utilize guide dog training techniques familiar both to instructors and their graduates can put the safety of guide dog users who need after-care at great risk; and

Whereas, this treatment by the State of California clearly violates principles of consumer choice with respect to training which are universally upheld and valued by the American Council of the Blind.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this organization calls on the legislature and Governor of the state of California to enact legislation during the 2016 session to permit instructors employed by IGDF accredited schools to provide follow-up services to their graduate guide dog teams in California, without requiring these instructors to be licensed by the state; and

be IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization calls on the Governor of the State of California to reach out to the Board to create approaches to alleviating the dangerous situation described above by encouraging the creation of an interim approach that will allow after-care services to be delivered by out-of-state instructors;

and be it further Resolved: that copies of this resolution shall be sent to the Governor of the State of California, to the members of the California State Legislature, and to the members and Executive Officer of the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Adopted, July 10, 2015
Dallas, Texas

We wish all of you safe and happy summer travels during coming weeks.
Willow and I plan to spend next week with our family at a beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We will be back with further announcements when our vacation is over.
Sincerely,
Penny Reeder, President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
mailto:President@GuideDogUsersInc.org
Will Burley, First Vice President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
mailto:vp1@GuideDogUsersInc.org

http://www.guidedogusersinc.org/
Call us, toll-free, at 866.799.8436
Like and visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GDUInc Follow us at Twitter: @GDUInc

Support GDUI when you use this link to shop at Amazon.com:
http://smile.amazon.com/ch/52-1871119.

To join the GDUI-Announce List, visit this link:
http://www.acblists.org/mailman/listinfo/gdui-announce

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 whenever there is a new announcement to share. We look forward to sharing announcements concerning our organization with all who are interested in GDUI.

Letter to California Guide Dog Board

Dear GDUI Members and Friends,

Below, we are sharing correspondence GDUI sent to members of the California State Guide Dog Board and their Executive Officer, Brian Skewis, on July 14, 2015. We urge any of our members who can to attend the Board’s quarterly meeting, at which the issues described in this correspondence will be discussed. Add your voices to our own, urge the Board to change its recently re-defined policy regarding follow-up services for guide dog users who live in California who received training from International Guide Dog Federation -accredited schools outside the state, so as not to jeopardize the safety of guide dog teams who live and work in California.

The next quarterly meeting of the California State Guide Dog Board will take place Monday, July 20, 2015, at 1:00 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time. To attend by Teleconference, call this Phone Number: 866.692.3158. Use this Participant Code: 99686782.

To attend in person, arrive by 1:00 p.m. at this address: Department of Consumer Affairs – Trinity Room, 1625 N. Market Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95834.

From: Guide Dog Users, Inc.
To: Members and Executive Officer, California State Guide Dog Board
Regarding: Follow-Up Services for California Guide Dog Teams

July 14, 2015

Dear Board Member:

I am writing on behalf of Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI), the leading membership organization of blind and visually impaired women and men who rely on guide dogs for independence and safety as we travel through the built environment. GDUI is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB). Like our parent organization, we advocate on behalf of people who are blind and visually impaired – in our case particularly, on behalf of people who use guide dogs as their mobility aids of choice. We also educate the general public regarding blindness, the capabilities and goals of people who are blind, and laws and regulations that are meant to guarantee our civil rights as people with disabilities. We provide peer support and mentoring for our members who live in every region of the USA and several other countries. We have long known about the California State Guide Dog Board, its reason for being, and the standards of excellence that the Board strives to develop and administer. The excellence and reliability of guide dog training programs is as important to our members who partner with guide dogs and count on them on a daily basis to maximize our quality of life as it is to members of your board. We commend the Board for developing standards for excellent training programs, stamping out fraud with respect to fund-raising for California-based guide dog training programs, and insisting on the highest standards for guide dog training programs and instructors. However, we believe that, recently, the Board has misinterpreted its mission with respect to monitoring follow-up services for guide dog school graduates, particularly those graduates from guide dog training programs which are not based in California and which comply with equally rigorous standards of excellence developed by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). The IGDF is an international school-membership organization founded in 1989, and comprised of more than 80 guide dog training programs. The organization seeks to facilitate sharing of knowledge and experience, and to develop and promulgate the highest quality standards, methodologies and help for new and existing guide dog schools wishing to improve the quality of their operations.

GDUI considers the Board’s current interpretation of its mission with respect to requiring Board licenses for instructors who provide follow-up services for graduates an overreach of the board’s authority. It is certainly a dramatic departure from the way the board has addressed the provision of after-care services for guide dog teams who have graduated from schools not based in California during the majority of the Board’s history. Furthermore, denying provision of after-care services to graduates who have a personal relationship with a particular school and its particular training regimen puts the safety of many of our members who live in California and who have chosen to acquire guide dogs and training from instructors who are not licensed by the board (but whose employers are accredited by the IGDF) in jeopardy. We are writing to insist that the Board re-evaluate its current policy with respect to follow-up services which may be needed by California residents whose instructors may not be certified by the Board but whose training programs have complied with the standards developed by the IGDF and which, in many cases, have a deservedly excellent and long-standing reputation as outstanding guide dog training programs. Our members want and need assurance that, when they need to consult with their trainers from schools who do not have instructors licensed by the board on staff, they can expect to receive these follow-up services expeditiously, and that the Board will not stand in the way of their receiving timely and appropriate follow-up services.

In addition to sending this letter to members of your board and the Board’s executive officer, we are contacting the Governor of California, as well as all state legislators to explain how the board’s recent re-definition of its mission and consequential banning of follow-up services from instructors who know their graduates, their dogs, and a particular training philosophy may well jeopardize the safety of some Californians who have chosen to acquire their guide dogs and training from schools based outside of the state. This is an urgent matter for all of our members, particularly those members who live or who may choose to move to California, as well as for graduates of schools who do not find it economically or practically viable to subject their instructors to examinations administered by the three California-based guide dog schools. It might, in fact, be impossible for the larger schools who could easily have hundreds of graduates living in California to obtain licenses for a sufficient number of instructors to meet the needs of their graduates within the timely manner that is essential during emergency situations. Imagine, for example, enduring an attack against one’s guide dog by an out-of-control neighborhood dog and then having to wait for many days or even weeks before consulting with a trainer from the school that trained you and your guide dog to get his or her opinion about the guide’s suitability for continued work in the neighborhood! Such a scenario is not only a likelihood for graduates of out-of-state schools with a substantial number of graduates living in California who have no – or even too few – Board-licensed instructors but a persistent nagging worry for graduates of those programs.

We want to stress that consumer choice is a guiding principle for both GDUI and ACB, and that the Board’s recent actions which penalize Californians who choose to attend out-of-state training programs represent a significant violation of a principle that is important to us.

As California’s governor and legislators evaluate the purview and future of the Board, we urge them to find a way for Californians who choose to acquire their dogs and their training from schools that are not based in the state to receive timely and appropriate follow-up services from instructors from their schools and to acknowledge that accreditation by the IGDF is at least as rigorous and meaningful as that developed and administered by the California State Guide Dog Board. We urge the California State Guide Dog Board to acknowledge this reality and to find a way to modify its policy to permit instructors who are not licensed by the board but who work for schools which have been accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation to provide follow-up services to their graduates who live in California so as to put an end to the peril in which a number of guide dog users who live in your state now find themselves.

Thank you for taking our concern as seriously as our members do and for acting to guarantee, as much as possible, the safety and viability of every guide dog team working in California, regardless of whether or not a school’s instructors have received certification of excellence from the California State Board.

Sincerely,
Penny Reeder, President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.