70 years ago the mission of Guide Dogs of America (GDA) is “to transform lives through partnerships with service dogs.” They provide highly skilled, professionally trained service dogs across the United States and Canada at no cost to the recipients.
GDA raises and trains four classes of dogs: guide dogs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired; service dogs for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or mobility limitations; service dogs for children with autism; and facility dogs that are placed with professionals in hospitals, schools, and courtrooms.
All training takes place on a 7.5 acre campus near Los Angeles, California. Training for the visually impaired includes a 21-day in-residence training program while training for veterans, individuals with autism and facilities dogs includes 3 weeks of online instruction, followed by a 10-day in-residence training program. While students are on campus learning how to care for and work with their service dogs, they are given private rooms in the dormitory and three meals a day.
The trainers at GDA take many factors into consideration when pairing students with a canine partner to ensure it is a good match. This includes the personalities of the students as well as their physical abilities, and work and home environments. Graduates of the programs are given free support for the lifetime of the team.
Currently, GDA is providing one on one support and in-home visits to over 210 working guide dog teams and 52 working service dog teams. According to the most recent annual report, in fiscal year 2022, GDA placed 22 new guide dog teams and 20 new working service dog teams. Watch this short video to hear from a GDA graduate about how having a guide dog enhances her life.
If you’d like to help GDA train and provide dogs that increase people’s confidence, mobility, and independence there are many ways to do so. Raise a puppy, volunteer your time, shop for merch or make a donation. You can also help spread the word on social media by subscribing to the Guide Dogs of America YouTube channel and following them on Facebook and Instagram @guidedogsofamerica.