Charity in need of place to train clients

Charity in need of place to train clients
Jennifer Dowler, CEO & co-founder of Dogs for the Disabled, with Jay, an 11-week-old golden retriever puppy. Pic: Denis Minihane.

A Cork assistance dog charity is in urgent need of a new premises, as it is forced to train clients with their dogs in shopping centres.

Dogs for the Disabled, the only charity of its kind in Europe, trains dogs to assist the physically disabled, with the majority of its clients children under the age of 12.

Although the charity currently has a temporary rented space in Abbeyville,Togher, founder Jennifer Dowler says the location is too small to train clients how to work with their dogs.

"We are seriously looking for a place but nothing has happened yet,” Ms Dowler said. 

The charity has been left to train in shopping centres around Cork due to the lack of space. 

It chose shopping centres because smooth surfaces are needed for training, Ms Dowler said, adding that this is far from ideal. 

“When children fall in public, they find it very hard with everyone staring at them,"she said. 

"On their early walks, they do tend to fall a lot. It would be great to have a facility to train the kids before exposing them to the real world.” 

“Children may be taking their first steps. Earlier walks, it’s very hard. You need to be watching them carefully in case they go down." 

The charity currently has 80 people on its waiting list, with a four-year long wait to get a dog. 

"Realistically, we have to grow as a charity, we can’t leave people in hope for something that will never happen," Ms Dowler added. 

“People are crying out day and night as services are cut. The difference it makes to a child is the difference between living longer or not.”

With 200 of the charity's dogs and puppies nationwide, each dog is partnered with a disabled person at no cost to the recipient. 

Although it costs the charity €15,000 to train and support each assistance dog, it receives no government funding. 

The charity relies completely on sponsorship, fundraising and donations. 

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