Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs response to COVID-19

Current March 30, 2020

Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs is closely monitoring developments in relation to the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and we are acting on the advice of health authorities.

We currently have no indication that any member of our workforce or our client group has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

At present our main priorities are ensuring the health and wellbeing of our staff and clients and supporting efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Seeing Eye Dogs Operational Update

We at Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs appreciate your continued and ongoing support.  

We continue to train high quality Seeing Eye Dogs for our clients waiting for a dog. 

  1. Our pups are being born regularly and now more than ever we have a need to find carers for our many pups. We are still taking applications online. (note: 6 and 12 month caring program only) 
  2. Our Breeding, Kennel and Puppy Centre staff continue to look after our dogs and pups at our Seeing Eye Dogs facility supporting around 50 dogs in kennels.
  3. Our Puppy Development Trainers continue to support our volunteer puppy, breeder and foster carers with regular socially distanced visits, phone outreach and online training programs and tips as they continue to look after 250 dogs in their homes. 
  4. Our Seeing Eye Dogs Instructors are adapting their client supervision and training using social distancing protocols with more online interaction and in person meetings for critical training services. 
  5. Our clients and their Seeing Eye Dogs continue to receive support from our staff through regular phone calls and teleconference style meetings. 
  6. We are maintaining our levels of dog food, equipment and supplies for our clients and carers while altering our delivery practices to immediately outside the home. Our valued partners and Royal Canin assure us there is no disruption to supply. 
  7. Facilitating safe transfer of pups and dogs to our facility with increased safety protocols. 
  8. Please remember to protect our dogs by maintaining health and vaccination protocols for our puppies and breeding dogs, check your vaccination schedule in the vet book and manual and make sure they are up to date. For the safety of all our dogs we cannot accept unvaccinated dogs into our kennels. 

Veterinary Services

Veterinary procedures are continuing on site with social distancing in place. Any planned on-site vet visits for pups will go ahead however the consultation will take place via phone, with carers requested to wait in their vehicles.

For health conditions that arise, please be in contact with your puppy development trainer as per usual for advice whether the pup should be treated by your local vet or at Seeing Eye Dogs.

Veterinary care of all dogs housed on site is continuing without interruption and welfare of all dogs continues to be high priority.

Information for puppy carers

As part of our COVID-19 response, we are making some changes to the way which pups are dropped off or collected here at Kensington.

This is to ensure the health and safety of our carers and staff, their families and the wider community during this time, and will be in place until further notice. 

New dog pick up and drop off guidelines at Seeing Eye Dogs Kensington

Dog drop off: Please enter via the front car park (Barrett Street) and put your dog in one of the small toilet yards on the car park level.

Remove all equipment (collar, lead, harness and retain or return to equipment tub).

Please write the dog’s name, your name, and phone number on the noteboard located on the toileting yard gate.

Once you have done so, call our Kennels team mobile on 0437 001 798 or your puppy development trainer (depending who/what you’re dropping the dog to site for) to let us know your dog is ready to be collected and return to your vehicle.

Dog pick up: Please enter via the front car park off Barrett Street and call the Kennels team on 0437 001 798from your car.

A Kennels team member will bring the dog and required equipment/supplies to the toilet yard in the front car park and give a verbal handover via phone of any necessary information.

You’ll then be able to collect dog from the toileting yard and be on your way. 

Returning equipment

There is a large sign-posted tub located near the toileting yards to place all returned equipment.

Please do not leave equipment in any other locations as we will need to ensure any returned equipment is sanitized.

Collecting Supplies from Seeing Eye Dogs Kensington

If you need to come to Seeing Eye Dogs Kensington to collect food, sentinel, equipment or other supplies, please call our Kennels team on 0437 001 798 ahead of your arrival.

We will then arrange to have your items ready for collection in the front car park.

We will continue to keep you updated on any changes, but for any queries, please get in touch with your puppy development trainer or Seeing Eye Dog contact. 

What you need to know about Vision Australia services

Vision Australia continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and will continue to follow directions from all levels of government to support efforts to slow the spread of the virus. 

All Vision Australia offices remain open, but in-line with the national shutdown of nonessential services and more stringent social distancing guidelines, Vision Australia will only deliver services via face-to-face appointments where there is a critical need.

Where possible, we will be providing Vision Australia services via our telehealth service. Telehealth involves the use of technology such as phone, videoconferencing and email and will allow us to connect with and deliver services to our clients remotely.

Vision Australia deems services as critical when a client needs urgent support for reasons such as, but not limited to; 

  • Being able to remain in their own home 
  • Maintaining employment  
  • Being able to fulfil their role as a carer.  

The delivery of critical services will be subject to a strict COVID-19 risk assessment for both staff and clients. 

We understand this decision will have a serious impact on many of our clients and Vision Australia is committed to supporting our clients through this period.

If you have face-to-face appointments impacted by our decision, we will be in touch in the near future to discuss your options. You can also contact us by phone on 1300 84 74 66 or via email at info@visionaustralia.org.

Telehealth at Vision Australia

We have expanded our telehealth service to ensure we can continue to provide services and also better connect with our clients.

Telehealth involves using technology to conduct your appointments with a Vision Australia service provider. Telehealth does not replace face-to-face appointments, but is done in combination with them.

Telehealth appointments can be done via:

  • Video conferencing
  • Telephone
  • Sharing of photographs and videos via SMS or email.

If you would like to discuss how a telehealth appointment could help you, please get in touch today.

You can call us on 1300 84 74 66 or email info@visionaustralia.org. You can also contact your regular Vision Australia service provider or contact your local Vision Australia location.

Vision Store

Specialist blindness and low vision technology is available via our Vision Store, both online and over the phone on 1300 84 74 66.

At present, all physical Vision Australia retail locations remain open, but we have made some changes to our phone and online ordering to make accessing products easier. You can find out all about those changes on our website.

We have introduced additional measures, including strengthening our sanitation guidelines, regularly disinfecting products and surfaces, and limiting access to ensure people are visiting clean and safe locations.

You are welcome to shop in-store at any of our locations, but we encourage you to call ahead to check opening hours and product availability. 

You can also shop online at www.shop.visionaustralia.org or call our customer service team on 1300 84 74 66 between 9am and 7pm Monday to Friday

Government restrictions and advice

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the Australian Government has introduced a number of measures.

The below information comes directly from the Australian Department of Health.

Non-essential gatherings

Stay at home unless you are:

  • going to work or education (if you are unable to do so at home)
  • shopping for essential supplies such as groceries, return home without delay
  • going out for personal exercise in the neighbourhood, on your own or with one other
  • attending medical appointments or compassionate visits

Whenever you are out of the home, always practice good physical distancing and hand hygiene.

This is especially important for people of the over age of 70, those over 60 years who have existing health concerns and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the aged of 50 who have existing health concerns.  These groups should limit the contact with others as much as possible when away from home.

The following facilities were restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:

  • pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs
  • restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies)

From 12:00am on 26 March, these restrictions were extended to the following:

  • food courts (except for take away)
  • auction houses, real estate auctions and open houses
  • personal services ( beauty, nail, tanning, waxing and tattoo salons)
  • spa and massage parlours, excluding health related services such as physiotherapy
  • amusement parks, arcades and play centres (indoor and outdoor)
  • strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues.
  • galleries, national institutions, historic sites and museums
  • health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres and swimming pools
  • community facilities such as community halls, libraries and youth centres, RSL and PCYC
  • gaming and gambling venues
  • indoor and outdoor markets (excluding food markets). States and territories will make their own announcements about this.

Weddings can be conducted with no more than 5 people, including the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses. The four square metre rule and social distancing must be observed.

Funerals must be limited to no more than 10 people. The four square metre rule and social distancing must be observed.

Hairdressers and barbers can continue to operate under strict new rules. The four square metre rule and social distancing must be observed. 

Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast, campsites, caravan parks and boarding houses will be a decision for each state and territory.

The health advice on schools has not changed and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) does not recommend that schools be shut at this time. Some states may end their first term early.

If parents choose to keep their children home from schools that are open, they must be responsible for their children’s conduct and make sure they adhere to social distancing.

States and territories are making decisions regarding schools based on local circumstances. Visit your state or territory government website for more information.

Essential gatherings

Essential activities include:

  • essential workplaces, where you cannot work from home
  • health care settings
  • pharmacies
  • food shopping
  • schools and universities, where you cannot study from home
  • public transport and airports

These essential gatherings must apply social distancing and good hygiene practices, including:

  • being able to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres between people
  • providing hand hygiene products and suitable rubbish bins, with frequent cleaning and waste disposal
  • Self-isolation
  • You must self-isolate if any of the following applies to you:
  • you have COVID-19
  • you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • you arrived in Australia after midnight on 15 March 2020.

For information on how to self-isolate, refer to the Australian Department of Health website.

Social distancing

Everybody is encouraged to practice social distancing. Social distancing is designed to limit interactions between people.

You can implement social distancing at home, in the community, at work and at school.

The Australian Department of Health has resources available to download on how to carry out social distancing:

How you can help

Please refrain from attending a Vision Australia or Seeing Eye Dogs facility:

  • Within 14 days of returning from or having been in close contact with someone who has returned from international travel, or
  • If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

While at a Vision Australia facility:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Health authorities have identified elderly people and people with chronic health conditions as among those at most risk of a serious COVID-19 infection.

To help protect yourself and others, we suggest people living in aged care facilities strongly consider whether attending a Vision Australia facility, event or appointment is necessary at this time.

Staying connected with Vision Australia

You can contact Vision Australia via phone on 1300 84 74 66 or via email at info@visionaustralia.org.

We have a number of ways we can help people stay connected with Vision Australia and the wider community, including:

General COVID-19 advice

If you would like more information about the COVID-19 situation in Australia, please visit the Australian Government Department of Health website

If you would like to speak to somebody about your situation, you can phone the government's 24/7 hotline on 1800 020 080. You can also phone your regular GP, or in emergency situations call 000.

We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and we will be in contact if we are required to take further steps.

Ron Hooton
CEO, Vision Australia