Monday, 5 December 2016

Rhodes Scholar Thrives with Service Dog’s Help

Jory Fleming, 22, has autism, which makes social interaction difficult. “I didn’t really expect to do much of anything,” he said. He could not have been more wrong.
Fleming recently won one of academia’s most prestigious awards, the $68,000-a-year Rhodes Scholarship, for students who succeed inside and outside of the classroom. With the help of a service dog named Daisy, the Columbia resident has thrived at USC.
Now, Fleming is preparing for his next adventure, two years studying at Oxford University in England, starting next October.
An icebreaker
Trained and donated to Fleming by the local non-profit Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services, Daisy can alert him when his medical feeding pump - necessary because of a genetic condition - is not working correctly.
She helps him stand or pick things up when he is tired. And she knows to apply pressure to certain pressure points on Fleming’s body when he is stressed.
But Daisy also helps out in social environments. It turns out having an adorable dog always at your side is a great icebreaker.
“I certainly get a lot of attention as a result of having Daisy and have met people I otherwise wouldn’t have,” Fleming said with a laugh.
Batting a thousand
With Daisy at his side, Fleming has bloomed into the prototypical Rhodes Scholar.
Each year, 95 winners from around the world, including 32 from the United States, are chosen for their academic records, leadership skills and public service efforts.
Past winners include former President Bill Clinton, astronomer Edwin Hubble and ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. Fleming is USC’s 10th Rhodes Scholar since the program began in 1904 and its first since 2000.
Taking every advantage
Fleming attends USC’s sporting events and volunteers with Cocky’s Reading Express, taking trips to elementary schools to read to children.
He also coordinates education outreach for USC’s Students Engaged in Aquatic Sciences organization, teaching kids in schools about marine science.
In addition, Fleming helped form the Cocky’s Canine PAALS group at USC, which raises money and coordinates volunteers to support the nonprofit that donated Daisy.
Professors say he is quick to help other students struggling with difficult programs or concepts. With Daisy at his side, he has picked up a lot of friends along the way.
“That’s been one of the best parts of my college experience,” Fleming said. “If you told me that four years ago, I would not have believed it.”
Fleming says he now is ready for a new adventure at Oxford, one of the world’s best schools. Though he has never travelled outside of the United States, Fleming is moving to England next year and plans to pursue a master’s degree in geography.
“They say they’re the No. 1 school in the world for geography,” Fleming said. “I’m really excited about that. The school is just huge. They have geographers from every area in the field.”
And Daisy will be right there with him.

© 2016 The State, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Friday, 7 October 2016

No Go Britain: guide dog users whose dogs are turned away

It's written in law that assistance dogs - including guide dogs - should be allowed into offices, shops, restaurants, taxis - basically anywhere their owners are going. 

But a group of guide dog users marched on Parliament  to alert MPs to the fact that the law in this area is all-too-often ignored.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How ‘dog detectives’ are making an environmental impact

A year after her successful Dreamstarter campaign, Lizzie Corke, founder and CEO of Conservation Ecology Centre, talks about the fantastic contribution Otways Conservation Dogs are making in protecting Australia’s endangered Tiger Quoll.

What’s the problem you’re tackling? 

As an apex predator and the largest marsupial predator remaining on the Australian mainland, the Tiger Quoll plays a vital role in the ecosystem. However, the Tiger Quoll is an endangered species; there aren’t many left and we need to take steps to protect them.

How are you going about it? 

The good news is that we can gather all the information we need to help target conservation efforts for Tiger Quolls from their scats. Finding the scats is a challenge and this is where man’s best friend comes to the rescue. Through Otways Conservation Dogs, community volunteers work with their own dogs as highly trained conservation canine detection teams.

What impact did Dreamstarter have on your conservation efforts?

Dreamstarter certainly engaged new supporters – this was our first foray into crowdfunding and a significant proportion of pledges were from new supporters, some of whom have continued to engage with the organisation. Crowdfunding was also a great way for the Otways Conservation Dogs volunteers to get involved – they were fabulous and actively promoted the campaign through their own networks and through the media.

What progress have you made over the past year?

The Otways Conservation Dogs project is progressing really well. As a result of the Dreamstarter campaign we have conducted 10 training sessions and carried out assessments for four dog/handler teams. We have conducted three deployments with many more planned for this year and we have established a research program to evaluate and assess detection methods for continual improvement and development.

Monday, 9 May 2016

$1,000,000 in Grants for Human-Animal Interaction Research Proposals

Funding Opportunity from National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) 

Applicants are invited to apply for research grant applications to examine the inclusion of animals in therapy and rehabilitation, neurological conditions, behavioral, emotional and mental health issues and related health outcomes, as well as the adaptation healthy behaviors and the enhancement of learning in special need and at-risk populations.

NICHD has issued a request for applications for new human-animal interaction research proposals:

Further Information:

  • NICHD intends to commit $1,000,000 between this RFA-HD-17-014 and the RFA-HD-17-015 (R21), in fiscal year 2017 to fund 5-7 awards.
  • No more than $50,000 in direct costs may be requested in any single year.
  • The total project period may not exceed 2 years
  • Multi-disciplinary teams of researchers are strongly encouraged.


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Animals Assisting People

Numerous organisations in Victoria help foster the important roles that animals can play in our lives - whether it's through horse riding schools for the disabled, assistance dogs for the disabled or elderly, or programs helping people to keep their pets when they go into care or become less capable of doing so themselves. Here is a list of some of these organisations.
Assistance Dogs Australia trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers to help enhance the quality of life and improve the level of independence for people with physical disabilities, promoting greater mobility, confidence and higher self-esteem.
Balwyn Welfare Association Companion Animal Volunteer Support program operates through the City of Boroondara and provides support services to frail older people and people with disabilities to help them keep and care for their pets at home. Services include dog walking, bathing, grooming, and assistance in transporting a companion animal to the veterinarian. 
Canine Helpers for the Disabled Inc. trains assistance dogs for people with different disabilities, including Hearing Dogs for the hearing impaired, Service dogs for people with physical disabilities, Therapy Dogs for people with emotional, psychological or social disorders, and for children, and Facility Dogs for Special Schools and Rehabilitation Programs. They work with animal shelters and rescue groups wherever possible to give unwanted dogs a new life.
The State Government's Responsible Pet Ownership Program involves free visits to Primary Schools and Kindergartens by pet educators and their temperament tested dogs. The visits teach children about pet care and safety with pets including dog attack prevention.
The Delta Society runs a variety of programs that work under the philosophy of using the human-animal bond to comfort the sick in hospitals and aged care facilities, develop more confident children, teach children about dog safety, and promote reward based training methods to develop happy and contented pets.
Dogs Victoria Therapy Dogs coordinates dogs to visit residents in aged care homes.
Guide Dogs Victoria's Pets as Therapy program provides appropriate reclassified dogs for Victorian children who have a vision impairment. Many of these children with a vision impairment may progress on to being full time Guide Dog handlers as adults.
Knox CommunityVolunteers Inc., Pet Companion Program is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and provides support to older people and people with a disability who require assistance in caring with their pets. Services include dog walking, pet bathing and grooming and transport. The service operates in Victoria, in Knox and Maroondah as well as some parts of the Yarra Ranges and Whitehorse.
Lead the Way - Psychology and Animal Assisted Therapy is a Melbourne-based service dedicated to studying and enhancing knowledge in Animal-Assisted Therapy and providing professional psychology services that integrate dogs.
PetLinks Program operates in the Port Phillip area and helps aged people and people with disabilities care for their animals at home. Services include dog walking, grooming, cage cleaning, transport, and foster care when owners are unwell.
Real Animals Pets and People is a consultancy which aims to address gaps in support services within the aged, disability and community based sectors for the companion animals of the elderly and disabled living at home.
Riding for the Disabled Association of Victoria helps to reduce the barriers that young people with a disability have historically faced to develop equestrian skills in sporting, competition and recreational activities with their peers.
Seeing Eye Dogs Australia provide support and Seeing Eye Dogs for Australians who are blind or vision impaired.
The Wishbone Foundation provides free pet care to owners who are elderly and/or disabled. Clients must be receiving a government benefit as their primary source of income. Assistance includes dog walking, transportation to the veterinarian, washing and grooming, and respite care. The Foundation also offers grooming, walking and 'doggy daycare' to the general public, using the profits to support the work done free-of-charge for clients.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Search & Rescue Dogs Organisation in Australia

Did you know?
  • An average dog has 220 million scent receptors, compared to a human who has only 5 million.
  • Dogs can move their nostrils independently of one another, allowing them to pinpoint the source of a scent.
  • Dogs have long been used in history for finding and rescuing lost people.
  • Humans shed around 40,000 skin cells each minute; these skin rafts are unique to each individual and are thought to be a key scent that Search & Rescue dogs use to locate live victims.
They are a number of Canine Search & Rescue Organisations in Australia:

Search &Rescue Dogs Australia Inc. (SARDA Inc.)

Search & Rescue Dogs Australia Inc. (SARDA Inc.) is a charitable, non-profit volunteer organisation incorporated in 1994 and is based in Victoria and also with teams in Queensland. Victorian members primarily based on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne and Queensland members based in southern Brisbane and on the Gold Coast.

SARDA currently trains their teams for assessment and deployment in Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) with Australian USAR Taskforces.


State Emergency Service Search Dogs WA

The Western Australian State Emergency Service Canine Section assist the WA Police in searches for lost or missing people. The team is part of Department of Fire and Emergency Services and State Emergency Service of Western Australia and are known as the “Canine Unit”. Its members consist of handlers and dogs, each forming their own individual teams. These teams are trained for:
  • Area Search and Rescue
  • Scent Specific Tracking Search
  • Rescue of lost people

They are the only authorized search dog group that assist police in searching for missing people in WA.

  • Area Search and Rescue is when a team is given a particular area to search (generally a bush or forest area) and they are to completely clear the area of lost or missing persons.  Area Search dogs are trained in using scents, usually cast in the wind, on objects or on the ground.
  • Scent-specific Tracking Search and Rescue is when a team is given a scent article (generally an item of clothing or an item with strong individual human scent) and the dog will track this scent from the last known location of the missing person. Tracking dogs also use the ground and wind in tracking a particular human scent.


Canine Unit Recruitment

USAR K9 Unit are recruiting for handlers, trainers and support personnel who are keen to be involved in rescue work as part of a committed team. 

Applications for the USAR K9 Unit are now open! All applications must be submitted by 31 Mar 2016. To complete an application, please use the ‘USAR K9 – EOI Application Form – March 2016’ and submit along with your written application to the email address listed on the application form.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust (Mobility Dogs)

Established in 2003 Mobility Dogs mission is:“to enhance the lives of people living with physical disabilities; increasing independence, confidence, self-esteem and participation in New Zealand communities” through the training of assistance dogs. 

Mobility Dogs are trained to provide functional assistance with everyday tasks for those living with physical disabilities including: 
  • fetching the phone
  • retrieving dropped items and items out of reach
  • barking for help
  • opening doors
  • pressing lift and pedestrian crossing buttons
  • paying for purchases across the counter
  • loading and unloading washing machines and dryers
  • and more... depending on the recipient's needs

Mobility Dogs not only increase independence but also offer companionship, a greater sense of security and a feeling of connectedness to the community.

The Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust provides four categories of Mobility Dogs:
  1. Service Dog provides support both in the home environment and out in the community with full public access rights.
  2. Assist Dog provides support at home, and public access will be managed by a facilitator.
  3. Skilled Companion Dog provides the support of a highly skilled pet and mitigates at least three aspects of disability.
  4. Puppies with People - Mobility Dogs supporting in a variety of sectors: health and residential care, criminal justice, education in schools, physiotherapy psychologist/psychiatrist counselling services, emergency and victim services, and social workers, music therapist assistance.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Call for Proposals from ADPT Foundation

Association of Dog Professional Trainers (ADPT) Foundation makes financial awards for academic research in:
  • Behaviour analysis
  • Ethology
  • Cognition
  • Training & Behaviour Modification
Undergraduate and graduate academic research students and academicians are encouraged to apply for one of up to five $1500 grants being awarded through by the APDT Foundation in 2016.
Closing Date for Applications: 1 April 2016
Accepted proposals will be selected based on research submitted in a field related to behavior analysis, ethology and cognition. 
  • Preference will be given to proposals that contain research questions that will have practical application for professional dog trainers and behavior consultants.
  • Preference will also be given to proposals that include collaboration with the dog training and behavior community, specifically companion dog trainers who work with dog owners. 
  • The APDT Foundation will also accept proposals that create canine science outreach and education opportunities.
Interested applicants must submit their proposals to the APDT Foundation by April 1 2016. For instructions and eligibility requirements, visit the “Awards and Grants” page of the APDT Foundation’s website:
The mission of the APDT Foundation is to provide funding for applied scientific research on dog training and behavior and to further increase the knowledge base of the dog training profession. To learn more about the APDT Foundation visit:

Man rescues a dog.Then the dog rescues him...

Eric O'Grey knew he was in trouble. His weight had ballooned to 320 pounds, and he was spending more than $1,000 a month on medications for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
In 2010, a physician told him to buy a funeral plot, because he would need it in five years. He was 51 years old. So he went to talk with a naturopathic doctor about losing weight. She said: Get a shelter dog! O'Grey was surprised, but he took that advice, heading to the Humane Society Silicon Valley near his home in San Jose, Calif. He told the shelter, "I want an obese middle-aged dog, like me." That's how he met Peety.
Peety needed to be walked, so Eric and Peety walked, for at least a half-hour a day. O'Grey, who was working as an area sales manager for GE appliances, shifted to a plant-based diet. Over the course of a year, he lost 140 pounds. Peety lost 25. O'Grey got off the meds.
It wasn't just the walks with Peety that transformed O'Grey's life. The dog helped keep him from backsliding into his old, unhealthful ways. "He looked at me like I was the best person on the planet, and I wanted to become the person he thought I was."
Their story might have ended there. But Carol Novello, president of the Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV), had been trying to make the point that helping animals improves the lives of humans, too. She was finding that a tough sell, so she started looking for stories that made the case. "A while ago, Eric O'Grey submitted his story, and I just loved it."
Novello, a former tech executive, asked David Whitman, executive producer of the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley, what they could do with Eric and Peety's story. He came up with the idea of the Mutual Rescue initiative, which includes a contest where people can share stories of how a shelter animal changed their lives. The winning tale gets a video made about their rescue story. Donors to the HSSV funded the production of the Eric and Peety video as an example.
"It's really about the transformation and the impact that animals can have on our lives," Novello says.

Since the contest opened in February, the HSSV has received hundreds of stories, many of which focus on health. "We may do a Mutual Rescue weight-loss series," Novello says. "There are a lot of them."
Sure, stories are nice, but do pets really improve human health? No less an authority than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says yes. Having a pet can help decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and feelings of loneliness, the CDC says, while increasing opportunities for exercise and socializing with other humans. And there's increasing evidence that interaction with pets helps people cope with challenges including PTSD, Alzheimer's and the end of life.
"He transformed me into a completely different person," O'Grey says in the video. "I think about it now: Who rescued whom? Did I rescue him, or did he rescue me?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

1 in 3 working Guide Dogs attacked by an off-lead dog!



Research shows that attacks from off-lead pet dogs are one of the main reasons for the premature retirement of Guide Dogs. 
  • 34% of blind or vision impaired Victorian Guide Dog handlers have had their Guide Dogs attacked while working.
  • An average of one Guide Dog attacked in Victoria every month. 
Attacks by pet dogs are traumatic for Guide Dogs and their handlers, as well as being costly - it costs over $35,000 to train each Guide Dog. The consequences of attacks on Guide Dogs include:
  • Loss of mobility for handlers when the attack occurs.
  • Potential injury by the attacking dog to our Guide Dogs and their owners.
  • Inability of Guide Dogs to defend themselves because they are harnessed and leashed.
Attacks aside, ongoing distraction from pet dogs can cause Guide Dogs to become anxious and ineffective guides.

With her former Guide Dog Emilee who was attacked by another dog and her
new guide dog Cameron, Rhonda is supporting the 'Take the Lead' campaign

To address the issue, Guide Dogs Victoria, together with Guide Dogs organisations nationally, is participating in a new public education campaign, 'Take the Lead', calling on the country’s dog owners to ensure their pet dogs are always walked on a lead in the name of responsible pet ownership. 

“Guide Dogs play a vital role in enabling people who are blind or vision impaired to get around independently. Attacks compromise this independence and can cause serious injury and trauma to both the guide dog and its handler. In rare serious cases, attacks can result in premature retirement of a Guide Dog, which costs more than $35,000 to train,” said Guide Dogs Victoria CEO, Karen Hayes.


“There’s no doubt Australia is a nation of dog lovers with 4.2 million pet dogs across the country, but this just means 4.2 million potential safety hazards for Guide Dogs. We’re encouraging dog owners to take the lead to help create a safe community not just for Guide Dogs and their handlers but for everyone.”  

*Research released 30 April 2014 as part of International Guide Dog Day
Part of a national survey of more than 230 Guide Dog handlers who are blind or vision impaired, findings show that over half of these attacks occurred in the past 12 months, with off-lead pet dogs responsible for 84% of incidents. A further 11% have experienced at least four separate attacks over the past three years.

Assistance Dogs Australia celebrates 20 years!

Twenty years, two hundred dogs and one family...
Hannie & Robert Biggs OAM had no idea that their holiday to the USA over 20yrs ago would change their lives forever, as well as those of so many families in Australia.
As huge animal lovers, the couple visited Canine Companions for Independence during their time in California, a charity which places Assistance Dogs with people living with physical disabilities.
Watching the joy and happiness that an Assistance Dog brought to one young girl in a wheelchair, was the pivotal moment for Hannie.
“The little girl was so excited, she was whizzing around in her wheelchair and playing with the dog, and her mother called out for her to slow down. The girl shouted back, for all to hear, ‘Mum, I can do anything with this dog by my side!’
“Still to this day, I get goose bumps whenever I think about that moment. On the plane home to Australia, I turned to my husband and said, ‘This is something we have to do.’”
And with that, Assistance Dogs Australia was born. With 1 in 5 people living in Australia with a disability, Hannie and Robert saw a need for specially trained four-legged friends. Since then, Assistance Dogs Australia has placed over 200 life-changing Assistance Dogs to people in need, including: 
  • wheelchair users
  • children with autism
  • schools
  • military personnel with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • people living with dementia

20 years on, Assistance Dogs Australia has maintained its family values, with Hannie, Robert and their sons Andrew and Gavin, still very much involved with the organization.
Robert remains treasurer of the Board, while Hannie volunteers her time to show community groups the incredible work of Assistance Dogs Australia. Hannie visits groups & schools,demonstrating the skills that each dog learns with ambassador dog, Sunshine. 
People are always amazed when they can see what Sunshine can do.” said Hannie. “Her favourite thing is pulling my socks off.”
Together, Hannie and Sunshine show how an Assistance Dog can retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, remove items of clothing, answer the phone, and press the button at the pedestrian crossing.
Assistance Dogs Australia celebrates it's 20th birthday year in 2016. To find out how to be a part of it, visit their birthday page.    

Friday, 19 February 2016

Cyclists asked to exercise caution around Guide Dogs!

A charity for blind people has said guide dog owners are scared of going out in London because of cyclists.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said it had seen more reports from guide dog owners who had been hit by a cyclist or come close to a collision.
Rob Harris from the group said some visually impaired people were "fearful" about going out which was "worrying". The London Cycling Campaign said every cyclist had a "duty of care".
Mr Harris said: "We work incredibly hard to get blind or partially sighted people out of their homes and mobile, so to hear that vision impaired people are anxious and in some cases fearful about going out in London because of irresponsible cyclists is very worrying."
Cyclist reminders
  • In a survey conducted by the association, of 33 guide dog owners in London who responded, 14 said they had been involved in a collision and 25 said they had been involved in a "near miss" with cyclists on pavements or jumping red lights.
  • A further five blind people without guide dogs said they had been in collisions with cyclists - out of 16 who responded to the survey.
  • There are 41,060 people registered blind or partially sighted in London with just over 320 using guide dogs in the city.
Charlie Lloyd, from the London Cycling Campaign, said: "Any crash or a close pass which frightens or intimidates a pedestrian is unacceptable. Far worse when that person is blind, partially sighted or in any way less able than we are."
Guide dog owner Deborah Persaud said she was involved in a collision with a cyclist on the pavement while she was walking home in Islington. She said: "My dress was torn, the contents of my handbag damaged and I was left with damage to my shoulder and hip."
As part of the campaign, Guide Dogs said it was reminding riders to use a bell or call out to owners waiting to cross the road to let them know they were on the road and to remind cyclists not to ride up behind a guide dog in case it startled them.

Calls to improve regulations for assistance animals

The Australian Human Rights Commission has responded to an increased number of complaints regarding assistance animals, by holding a forum with various stakeholders to discuss issues around certification, accreditation and regulation of assistance animals.
Assistance animals, particularly assistance dogs, guide dogs and hearing dogs provide invaluable support to some people with disability to enable them to participate in various activities of public and private life.
But there have been a number of cases brought to the Commission, where people with disability have complained that services providers have denied them access because they won’t accept their assistance dogs. This has been particularly problematic when it comes to air travel. Members of the Australian Government’s Aviation Access Forum and other groups agreed to hold a specific meeting to further discuss this issue in coming months.
Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, opened the meeting.
“It is clear that there’s an appetite for clarification of some of these issues, particularly regarding training, certification and accreditation of assistance animals, and we have agreed to continue to work together to progress the issues,” said Commissioner Ryan.
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