Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Seeing Dog?
Seeing dogs are trained to guide their handlers from one place to another while avoiding obstacles in their paths.
We train and deliver seeing dog partnerships to assist those with visual impairments to live as independent a life as possible.
Is that different to a guide dog?
No. Since 2016 we are an accredited guide dog provider through the International Guide Dog Federation and are members of Assistance Dogs UK. In 2021 we were proud to be welcomed into the European Guide Dog Federation.
What is your unique selling point and what makes you different?
Our objective is to train someone with a guide dog in order that they be lead and enjoy an independent life. We give our partnerships independence and autonomy to make choices best suited to them. With appropriate supervision and aftercare, the owner is free to make veterinary and dietary decisions best suited to them and their dog. We believe that choice and competition on not just healthy for the sector but are necessary to maintain high standards from instructors right the way down to our dog owners.
Trustees are responsible for the overall running and conduct of the charity. Their vital contribution is voluntary and no Trustee receives any payment.
What laws protect service animals in the UK?
The Equality Act 2010 requires all businesses to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to unable someone with a disability to access their service. Waiving a no dogs policy, for example, is accepted as being such an adjustment. As we are an accredited training provider, full legal protection is afforded. This law applies in England, Scotland and Wales but the Disability Discrimination Act is in use in Northern Ireland, albeit the reasonable adjustments clause remains the same.
Sections 170 and 171 cover the use of taxi and private hire vehicles. It is a crime to refuse to carry an assistance dog. Note: Changes to legislation: Equality Act 2010, Section 171 is up to date with all changes known to be in force on or before 26 July 2021. There are changes that may be brought into force at a future date. Changes that have been made appear in the content and are referenced with annotations.
How can I apply?
Currently we are not accepting any new applicants.
The recent Covid crisis has made it very difficult to commit ourselves to accepting applicants who would have been waiting an unacceptable time for dogs. However, we have very recently increased our training staff and fully expect to open up to applications quite soon.
In the meantime, we have concentrated on looking after existing clients and try to ensure they are never without a seeing dog.
How does the application and training process work?
The application process comes in three main stages:
- Request and complete application form.
- An instructor will come out to see you to discuss your application and iron out any questions you may have. You will then go for a walk to assess your cane technique and your general level of mobility. Please note that we do expect applicants to have some mobility skills, we will not be able to proceed if you have very little or no mobility skills.
- You are then assessed using a harness without a dog on it. Don’t worry, this section is not a pass or fail-based test. This helps the instructor to assess your walking speed, your height and your general body strength. Please note that sections 2 and 3 might be completed on one outing, depending on progress made and the length of time you have available.
After this has been completed, you will be advised of your suitability for a dog, if you are suitable, you will be placed on the waiting list as soon as possible. If you are not suitable, the reason(s) why will be explained to you in full.
How long can I expect to wait?
This is a difficult question to answer accurately. This depends on what type of dog you will need, for example if you need a slower than average dog it may take longer to find a suitable match. Equally, if you insist on having or not having a particular breed of dog, this may slow your application down (you are allowed to be selective about breeds you would or wouldn’t like, but the more selective you are the longer your application is likely to take).
I am not sure if I would like a dog but would like to know if I could benefit from one. Should I still apply?
Please get in touch with us if you have any questions at all. We will be happy to supply you with an application form as soon as you feel ready, and you may ask as many questions as you like before applying. Please note that if you do apply and change your mind, you are free to leave the process at any time. Having concerns is healthy and we will always do our best to iron these out.
You are free to leave the program at any point. There is no obligation to take on a dog until one is matched to you.
Do you require all your owners to take one type of food?
No, but we do suggest that you continue to use the food that the instructor has given your dog. You will be advised of this during training.
Do you cover all costs?
We endeavour to assist with the costs of supporting a Seeing Dog where we can. However, it is recommended you budget for food and vets bills. We will always help with major costs (e.g., a major operation) and we do supply a bed, a lead, a whistle, a harness, and their favourite toys).
We strongly advise owners to take out insurance for possible veterinary costs.
Where do the dogs go to the toilet?
Our dogs are trained to either go on grass or concrete. Some dogs will do both. They are taught to go on the word ‘busy’.
Some dogs prefer to use a spending pen which is a caged rectangle approx. 2m x 3m). Please allow for this space where you live.
I have multiple disabilities. Can I still apply?
Yes. We welcome applications from all sections of the disability community. We sometimes collaborate with other charities to form dual purpose dogs (e.g., Seizure alert, physical disability or hearing impairment). If you feel that you might benefit from such a partnership, please get in touch to discuss your individual situation.
Do your dogs have a happy life? Surely a working dog can't be happy?
At Seeing Dogs, we strongly encourage all of our owners to give their dogs a loving home. After all, they are still animals.
Our owners are encouraged to give the dogs regular free runs in the park and to play games with their dog where they can assist in the bonding process. Our dogs are always happy and keen to work; if they weren’t, they would refuse to wear the harness.
I would like to volunteer/help with fundraising. How can I help?
Our charity is reliant on the goodwill of others, both in terms of money and time. There is a considerable amount of work that goes into supporting our work and we greatly appreciate any help that you can give. Please get in touch if you would like to know more or feel you could help us. We are especially keen to hear from anyone who is interested in assisting with street collections getting sponsorships for us.
I like to travel but would benefit from one of your dogs. Can I still travel?
Yes. If regular and/or long-distance travel is something you like to do, please mention this in the application and this will be considered when matching you with a dog. Although we want to enable visually impaired people to travel as freely as they wish, there are constraints as to what a dog can do/be put through. For example, we would have no objection to our dogs going on holiday with you to Cornwall, Spain or the south of France, however a few eyebrows might be raised if your first flight with your new dog is to Australia or Fiji. We do have a range of borders who will look after our dogs when their owners are away, this is particularly useful if you feel that your travel plans would be unfair on a dog.
Do you get government funding to assist with your important work?
No. We receive no funding from Her Majesty’s Government, and we are solely reliant on grants and donations from the charitable community and the wider public.
How much does it cost to train one of your dogs?
It costs approximately £15,000 to train and maintain one dog from start to finish. With over two million people in the UK with a registered visual impairment, money dries up very quickly if donations are not maintained.
What happens if my dog is denied service?
Unfortunately, this is surprisingly common. Nevertheless, we will always endeavour to support people who have been denied access because of their dog. We do not take kindly to our dog owners being treated as second-class citizens so we will support you 100% to get the justice you deserve. Although we can advise you of your rights, we are not able to offer any legal services. However, we can recommend partners who may be able to help find solutions or get justice.
Will I receive ongoing support?
Yes. Once training has been completed, we do not (figuratively) throw you off the edge of a cliff. We will return to see how you are getting on after one month and six months and our instructors are on hand to give any advice you may need at any point during your partnership. Indeed, we welcome questions and checking you’re doing something right, this is healthy and shows you are taking a keen interest in your partnership.
Do you have to have experience of looking after a pet before?
Whilst prior experience with dogs is desirable, it is not essential and is not a condition to getting one of our dogs. Looking after a dog forms part of our training. All we ask is for applicants to show a willingness to learn and to give the dog someone to look up to.
If there is an emergency, can I contact someone at any time of day or night?
Please contact us on the details at the bottom of this page. Please bear in mind that this is rooted to a private address and, unless it genuinely cannot wait, we ask you to call during working hours (9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday).
How much would a dog cost me?
We ask for a deposit of £5 to acquire one of our dogs. This money will be returned to you when your partnership comes to an end (unless you wish to donate it to us of course!).
We strongly advise owners to take out insurance for possible veterinary costs.
Can I give the dog back to you at any point? If so, do I have to give a reason?
During the application process, we do ask you to consider this application as an eight- or nine-year commitment. We will only proceed if you are serious about such a commitment. Think of it like becoming a parent, a baby isn’t something that can be ‘handed back’ when it’s inconvenient. We do understand, however, that circumstances change, for example an owner may succumb to a life changing injury or have an allergy to dogs that comes about in later life. We will withdraw the dog from you if we feel the partnership isn’t working or the dog is being neglected (these scenarios are extremely rare). If you give the dog back for no good reason, this may severely impact your eligibility for another dog in the future.
I am interested in donating a puppy. What should I do?
We are very grateful for any offers of puppies which really help us meet demand. Please contact us if you wish to donate puppies.
I am interested in puppy walking. What does this involve?
A puppy walker will introduce a dog to the world, taking them on trips to get them used to travelling and socialising them in their local community. This is vital work to ensure dogs in training get the best possible chance of becoming a fully qualified service animal.
I am interested in offering a home to a retired or withdrawn dog. What should I do? What are my obligations?
It is important to distinguish between withdrawn and retired dogs.
- Retired dogs are dogs that have offered impeccable service throughout their life to a person with sight loss I have come towards the end of their life. They are being rehomed because the owner is not able, for whatever reason, to look after a non-working dog.
- A withdrawn dog is a dog that has been withdrawn our program because they didn’t make the grade to guide a visually impaired person.
Once the dog is withdrawn from service and they are handed to you, they are no longer the property of the Seeing Dogs Alliance. As such, you would be fully responsible for their upkeep and for any bills that you may incur.
I am concerned about the wellbeing of one of your dogs. What should I do?
We take the wellbeing of our dogs very seriously. If you have become concerned about one of our dogs, in the first instance please get in touch with us through the contact details at the bottom of this page. If we have any concerns about our dogs as a result of our investigations, we will get anti-cruelty organizations involved ourselves.
I love dogs, especially working dogs. Can I say 'hello' to them while they're working?
Please ask the owner if you can touch the dog. As a general rule, however, they should not be distracted at any point. This includes when they are lying down or standing still. This is to ensure that the dog remains focused and the owner stays safe.
Our dogs must never be given treats without the explicit consent of the owner.
Whilst every attempt has been made to address as many questions as possible on this page, there might be a question that you have that we haven’t addressed here. If that is the case, please get in touch with us and we will be happy to answer your question(s).