Hackles raised at canine charities over lack of state help

Paul MacGuinness with his dog Feebie and his Mum Anne MacGuinness, a volunteer with Irish Dogs for the Disabled. Picture: Denis Scannell

Charities which provide dogs to help people cope with disabilities say there are 1,000 people on their books they can’t help because they don’t get proper funding from the Government.

The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, which is the only one of five service dogs organisations which gets government funding, joined with the other canine organisations yesterday to highlight the situation.

It gets just 15% funding and like the other charities relies heavily on public support, which has waned in the recession.

That organisation along with Autism Assistance Dogs of Ireland; Irish Dogs for the Disabled; Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind; Irish Therapy Dogs; and My Canine Companion are coming together to host a seminar at the Corrin Events Centre, Fermoy on Saturday, September 13 from 10.30am- 5pm.

The seminar will include a number of expert speakers, demonstrations, workshops, discussions, surveys and educational material.

Professor Ivan Perry of UCC recently published a report in the British Medical Journal which showed how an assistance dog could really help a person with autism.

“There is a huge impact in terms of quality of life and safety. It is clear and evident effectiveness and should be considered for government funding,” Prof Perry said.

He said he believes government funding would prove cost-effective and he will be carrying out a study to see if this can be confirmed.

Anne MacGuinness, from Leamlara in East Cork, is one women who certainly believes it is.

Her son, Paul, 25, suffers from cerebellar ataxia — a condition which affects his motor skills/ balance functions.

She says that Paul was often stopped by gardaí or security personnel who didn’t realise his condition and thought he was drunk or on drugs.

For the last six months he’s had the aid of assistance dog Feebie, a Swiss Shepherd.

“It’s the best thing he’s ever found. His balance has improved and the dog also offers companionship. There has been a huge improvement in Paul’s confidence,” Anne said.

She got Feebie from Irish Dogs for the Disabled, which is run voluntarily by two women.

“The work they do is phenomenal and I think they certainly deserve support from the Government,” she said.

The charities provide assistance dogs and therapy dogs for those who suffer from asperger syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, a range of genetic syndromes, as well as wheelchair users.

Therapy dogs also benefit hospitals, care homes, residential centres and school visits.


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