The Nationals WA have committed $5 million of Royalties for Regions to develop a breeding and training program based in regional WA to help meet growing demand for guide dogs.
Announcing the policy in Eaton today with candidate for Collie-Preston Wayne Sanford, Leader Mia Davies said regional WA was perfect for breeding, raising, training and ultimately partnering guide dogs with the vision impaired.
“This is a fantastic policy worked up in collaboration with Guide Dogs WA, which has identified the need for home-grown breeding so that guide dogs are trained for working life in WA conditions,” she said.
“There are currently 62 guide dog teams in WA of which 30 per cent are located regionally, but our policy and commitment will make sure dogs are bred and trained here rather than on the east coast.”
“As well as a breeding in partnership with Murdoch University, the program will build a network of volunteer puppy carers and boarding families to support dogs and trainers through their growth and development.”
Once established, the breeding program will produce up to 100 puppies a year, giving more families in Albany, Bunbury, Geraldton and a regional centre in the North West the opportunity to participate in puppy raising and boarding.
It will also fund 16 new mobility instructors, highly trained professionals that spend up to 12 months training guide dogs once partnered with their handlers.
Part of the $5 million will establish a cadet program with 20 placements dotted around regional WA to up-skill dog trainers and put them on a pathway to accreditation.
Guide Dogs WA chief executive Elizabeth Barnes said WA currently relied on breeding programs in the east and nearly all mobility instructors were sourced internationally, mostly from Great Britain.
“This funding commitment will make sure we breed and raise dogs of consistent high quality in our own State ready to work in WA conditions,” she said.
“The process of breeding and training guide dogs costs in excess of $50,000 and thousands of volunteer hours, so we anticipate localizing this program will bring costs down, create jobs and training pathways, reduce wait lists for trained dogs and improve the quality of life for vision impaired.”
Candidate for Collie-Preston Wayne Sanford said it was a great opportunity to educate regional WA about inclusiveness and bring about better outcomes for vision impaired who benefit from guide dogs.
“This is a fantastic initiative and I’m looking forward to following the stories of dogs born, bred, trained and partnered with their handlers right here in regional WA,” he said.