The hard work and dedication of a group of very special canine companions has been recognised at New South Wales Parliament House on Wednesday, November 22.
Thirteen Seeing Eye Dogs and their handlers who have completed the Seeing Eye Dogs training program in the last 12 months were celebrated in a special graduation ceremony hosted by The Hon. Kate Washington, Minister for Disability Inclusion.
It takes around two years and $50,000 to develop a Seeing Eye Dog to be ready to be matched with someone who is blind or has low vision. Seeing Eye Dogs and their handlers then undergo a period of intensive training before they officially graduate the program.
"It's a significant achievement for both the Seeing Eye Dog and handler to graduate and becoming a working partnership and all that time and effort is something that deserves to be celebrated," Chris Edwards, Vision Australia director of government relations and advocacy, said.
"As well as acknowledging what it takes to become a working Seeing Eye Dog, today is also about celebrating the difference Seeing Eye Dogs make in the lives of their handlers. For many people who are blind or have low vision, a Seeing Eye Dog is the key to them pursuing employment and education or just being an active and independent member of the community," Chris said.
The graduation ceremony was being held at Parliament House at the invitation of Kate Washington, Minister for Disability Inclusion.
“Thank you to Vision Australia for training Seeing Eye Dogs to help people who are blind or with low vision navigate the world around them with confidence,” Minister Washington said.
“Congratulations to these very special doggos, their handlers and trainers for all the hard work and dedication they’ve put in to graduate from the intensive Vision Australia training program.”
“I’m so pleased to be recognising the special partnerships between clever pups and their handlers today – working together, they’re breaking down barriers.”
Seeing Eye Dogs has recently established puppy caring and training operations in NSW and hopes to grow the number of handlers in the state in coming years.
"As we increase the number of working Seeing Eye Dogs in NSW, it's important we work with the government and others to ensure those dogs and their handlers feel included and are able to access and participate in the community," Chris said.