A charity that trains assistance dogs to help physically disabled children and young adults has issued a special appeal for people to open their homes to them so they can resume their dog training programme.
The team at Dogs for the Disabled normally uses rented hotel space to train their young dogs alongside their young clients.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented the Cork-based charity from using hotels for the training, leaving it with no option but to temporarily postpone the training programme.
The charity’s CEO, Jennifer Dowler, said they have around 150 children on their waiting lists.
She has now issued a specific appeal to the owners of vacant or empty homes to allow them to use their buildings so that the training can resume, and so that children can get the dogs they are waiting for.
The charity has more than 200 assistance and task dogs working across the country.
All the dogs are custom-trained to meet the specific needs of their partner and, once socialised and trained, the dogs are gifted free of charge to the recipient, all thanks to the charity’s hardworking fundraisers. The dogs can transform the lives of these young people.
As well as training stability and task dogs, the charity also provides dogs to work in therapeutic settings such as hospitals and counselling services.
“Covid-19 has impacted on all our lives and none more so than our most vulnerable children who are waiting for the dog that will transform their lives,” Ms Dowler said.
“The children that we work with all have health issues that place them within the higher Covid-19 risk group.
“Therefore our previous use of hotel accommodation is no longer an option due to the unacceptable risks it poses to them and it would be intolerable for our young people already dealing with significant difficulties.
“As a result, we have had to put our client training schedule on hold, meaning much longer waiting times before the children on our waiting list are able to get their assistance dogs.”
The ‘small charity with the big heart’ is now desperately seeking ‘homes from home’ to allow it to restart its training partnerships in safe, secure and comfortable surroundings.
“Our fully trained dogs live and work with children in their homes, so training them within a home environment makes perfect sense,” Ms Dowler said.
“The use of a vacant house with a wheelchair accessible entrance and a downstairs bedroom that can be used for the duration of the training would be life-changing for the young people who need an assistance dog to help them walk, gain independence and live fulfilled lives.
“I can not stress how important it is for us to maintain our training programme.
"By volunteering their homes people will be making a real and lasting difference to the lives of those young people who need our help the most.”
Anyone who may be in a position to facilitate Dogs for the Disabled in restarting their training programme can make contact with the charity at www.dogsfordisabled.ie.