FAQ

Q. When was the school established?
Q. What is the cost of providing a guide dog?
Q. How much does it cost to get a guide dog?
Q. Does the school get financial assistance from the government?
Q. Does the school examine the conditions in which the guide dog lives and works?
Q. What happens to the dogs that are removed from the program?
Q. Are your trainers licensed?
Q. Can the public visit Guide Dogs of America?
Q. Are Guide Dogs allowed in stores and restaurants?
Q. What do I do when I meet a guide dog team?
Q. Can I pet a guide dog?
Q. What is the average working life of a guide dog?
Q. How does a Guide Dog know where to go?
Q. Does the guide dog user have to pay for the dog on public transportation?
Q. Does a guide dog ever fail to adjust to the student or vice versa?
Q. Must an individual be totally blind to receive a guide dog or can they have some vision?

Q: When was the school established?
A: The school was founded in 1948 when a blind individual named Joseph Jones asked the IAMAW for help in getting a guide dog because all of the other schools refused to provide him with a guide dog because of his “upper age”. He was only 57. In response to his request, the IAMAW helped him found one of the first Guide Dog Schools without an upper age limit.

Q: What is the cost of providing a guide dog?
A: Approximately $42,000 or more, which includes the cost of training the dog and providing instruction for the guide dog user.

Q: How much does it cost to get a guide dog?
A: Nothing. We provide our guide dogs free of charge to blind and visually impaired men and women.

Q: Does the school get financial assistance from the government?
A: We receive no State or Federal money; we rely solely upon voluntary contributions.

Q: Does the school examine the conditions in which the guide dog lives and works?
A: Yes. Guide Dogs of America examines the the working and living conditions that take place before the blind applicant is accepted to receive a guide dog in our program. Trainers are able to determine any changes and reassess home area and working conditions during follow-up visits.

Q: What happens to the dogs that are removed from the program?
A: To be a successful guide dog, many factors including health and willingness to work come into play. If a dog in our program does not meet all the proper criteria necessary to be a guide dog, they must be removed from the program. Both Retired Guide Dogs and Career Change Dogs (dogs removed from the guide dog program due to problems with their health, temperament or other factors) are eligible to be offered for adoption. For more information, see our Adoption page.

Q: Are your trainers licensed?
A: Yes! In the state of California, Guide Dog Instructors are required by law to be licensed by the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Instructors must complete a 3 year apprenticeship under a licensed instructor at a certified guide dog school. This program of instruction was formulated in compliance with the California State Guide Dog Act, from California administrative code, title 16, chapter 22, article 2, section 2266. Upon completing the apprenticeship, one is eligible to take a written, practical, or oral exam to obtain a license per the California State Board of Guide Dogs. California is one of the only states to have a Guide Dog Instructor license requirement.

Q: Can the public visit Guide Dogs of America?
A: Please call us at (818) 833-6437 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Pacific Time to make a tour or Speaker appointment.

Q: Are Guide Dogs allowed in stores and restaurants?
A: A blind person accompanied by a guide dog has the right to go anywhere the general public is allowed. This includes restaurants, medical centers, stores of all kinds, taxicabs and airplanes, to name a few places. These rights are guaranteed by Federal and State Laws.

Q: What do I do when I meet a guide dog team?
A: Remember to speak to the person and not the dog. To just greet the dog or to greet the dog first is very disrespectful to the handler.

Q: Can I pet a guide dog?
A: Not without permission from the handler first! When a team is working your affection and petting, although well intentioned, acts as a distraction. That puts both the handler and the dog in danger. If you meet a guide dog team, ask first if you can pet their guide dog. The handler will know his partner best and will be able to determine if it will be ok. If the guide dog handler says “No”, respect their wishes. Generally, you do not pet a guide dog, or distract it, while it is working. If the dog is “off duty”, usually its owner will let you pet it with permission. But always ask first!

Q: What is the average working life of a guide dog?
A: Guide dogs work for about 6 to 8 years, but some dogs work for 10 years or longer. Most guide dogs are about 2 1/2 when they start working.

Q: How does a Guide Dog know where to go?
A: The blind person directs them to where he or she wants to go. It is the responsibility of the human member of the team to listen for the movement of traffic and other sounds in the environment to determine whether it is safe to proceed. If the guide dog judges that it is unsafe, it will refuse the command. This is called “intelligent disobedience”.

Q: Does the guide dog user have to pay for the dog on public transportation?
A: No. Guide Dogs travel free when accompanied by their owners on public transportation. For example, when traveling by airplane, the airlines do not charge for the dog and even allow the dog to be with the owner on the aircraft.

Q: Does a guide dog ever fail to adjust to the student or vice versa?
A: Incompatibility between student and dog is very rare, but it can occur. The reason why this rarely happens is because our Trainers and Student Services Personnel take the time to get to know both their dogs and the incoming students prior to matching. By the time the student and dog are matched, the needs, pace, strength, and personalities of both human and canine have been well assessed.

Q: Must an individual be totally blind to receive a guide dog or can they have some vision?
A: Individuals with severe visual impairment may receive a guide dog. Many forms of visual impairment allow the person to see some light or some of their field of vision, but they are considered legally blind. A person must be legally blind to be eligible for our program. The definition of legal blindness is “… central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens, or an eye which is accompanied by a limitation in the fields of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees…”.

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