So many times when you read an article in the news or in a discussion of young children using Service Dogs you see the example, “They would not forbid a child taking their Seeing Eye (Guide Dog) …”
One major point not taken into consideration is that national (most) guide dog schools do not train and give guide dogs to young children so access issues are not even part of the issue.
The Seeing Eye (Morristown, NJ): “Applicant must be between the ages of 16 and 75, motivated and emotionally stable, capable of walking one to two miles a day, and able to receive and implement instruction.”
Southeastern Guide Dogs: “Age: You must be at least 18 years old.** There is no upper age limit.” and “**For children between the ages of 10 and 18, see information on our Canine Connections program.”
“Good stewardship demands that we carefully place all of our dogs, so these career-changed dogs are hand-picked for other valuable areas of service. When we find a particularly gentle and loyal dog that must be career changed, we match it with a visually impaired child through our Canine Connections program.
Our Canine Connections Program builds a bridge between the child of today and the independent guide dog handler of tomorrow. Visually impaired children gain confidence as they learn how to care for the dog’s needs: feeding, grooming, walking, and playing. The children gain a faithful companion, as well as a sense of ownership, responsibility and maturity. And when the day comes for them to train with a guide dog, they’ll experience a smooth transition to freedom and independence.”
Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB): “Q: How old do you have to be to train with a Guide Dog? A: Because it takes a level of maturity, discipline and commitment to work with a Guide Dog, the majority of our students are 16 and older. There is no upper age limit for people who have the health and stamina to work with a Guide Dog.”
Guide Dogs of America: “Applicants should be at least 18 years old, but there is no upper age limit.”
Fidelco: “Orientation and mobility training-We require our applicants to have “O&M” training before being considered for a Fidelco guide dog. This includes using a white cane, learning street crossings in your community and the like. O&M training can be obtained at a local agency for the blind.”
Leader Dogs for the Blind: “Leader Dog recipients must be at least 16 years old, …”
“Pilot Dogs, Inc. does ask our prospective students to be a minimum of a junior in high school. The applicant needs to be legally blind and physically capable of caring for and receive benefit from a guide dog.”
Guide Dogs of Texas: “Each applicant needs to have had training using a long cane and be sufficiently mobile to work effectively with a dog.” and “… the criteria of being legally blind, being a resident of Texas, being at least 17 years of age, knowing and walking routes independently, and crossing streets without sighted assistance.”