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Guide dogs move into new home
The province’s only guide dog organization moved into it’s new headquarters in Ladner last month, and staff hope the new facility will allow them to expand their operations.
B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services has called South Delta home since 1996, and its new home on a one-acre lot on Ladner Trunk Road will allow the non-profit to service more blind and autistic Canadians, says CEO William Thornton.
“This is a huge upgrade for us,” he said. “Right now we have a very long waiting list, and we would like to see that come down.”
The new facility features 20 per cent more square-footage, and includes an onsite training facility, vet clinic, delivery rooms, and the organization’s administration office.
Breeding mothers spend five to six weeks at the facility under the care of staff and volunteers, while the puppies remain there until they are seven weeks old before being handed over to volunteer host families who help train the dogs.
“We made the decision not to raise them in kennels and that will continue,” said Thornton.
At any given time, B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services has close to 30 dogs being trained, and there is currently a two- to four-year wait to receive one.
While the organization provides guide dogs and autism support dogs free of charge, the process to train them generally lasts two years, and costs more than $35,000.
However, B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services operates solely on grants and donations, and receives no ongoing funding from the provincial government.
The new facility was made possible thanks to a long-time donor who made a substantial gift towards its purchase. With the sale of the old facility, Thornton says the organization will be mortgage free.
“We’re very happy to stay here in South Delta,” he said. “The community has always been very supportive of what we do.”
Thornton was originally a police dog handler in his native Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and in the 1970s trained in the UK to work with guide dogs before founding B.C.’s first and only guide dog organization.
But if the organization wants to keep up with demand, they need to at least double the amount of dogs being trained.
B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services’ previous headquarters at the end of 60B Street in Ladner was in a house on a standard lot in a residential neighbourhood and was barely suitable for its current needs.
Thornton hopes to expand the new facility with the construction of a 10,000 square-foot breeding, training, and education centre. The building would include a
Currently, B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services breeds close to 40 puppies annually, with only 60 per cent going on to become service dogs. Thornton would like to see that increase to 100 puppies bred annually.
The new breeding centre is still in its conceptual phase, but will likely require millions in fundraising and grants to become a reality.
B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services is holding its annual golf tournament fundraiser at Beach Grove Golf Club, hosted by Four-time Stanley Cup winner and Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster Howie Meeker.
To learn more about B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog Services, or what it takes to be a foster family, visit bcguidedog.com.