Last year I posted a news article about the very disturbing fight that Eye Dog Foundation puppy raisers were having with the training school. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like things are improving at EDF, at least according to this article:
Residents living near a controversial guide-dog training facility in south Phoenix say that it has gone, well, to the dogs.
They complain of frenzied barking and growling that can be heard throughout the day and night in the blocks surrounding the non-profit Eye Dog Foundation for the Blind. Certainly that was the case Thursday morning, when one resident recorded the cacophony of barking from her backyard just after 6.
“This is what we what we have to put up with every morning,” resident Barbara Tristan said over the racket. “It is just horrible.”
The California-based foundation, which runs its only training facility in Phoenix, hasn’t placed a single guide dog with the blind in two years. A recent Arizona Republic investigation found that it has placed an average of three dogs a year since 2000 despite raising millions of dollars in donations and interest from investments.
But the lack of dog placements doesn’t mean the kennels have been empty. And that’s where neighbors who live near the facility on 15th Avenue south of Baseline say the dogs are kept most of the day and night, locked in kennels where they bark and bark.
“It’s just that they are trapped in there all day long,” Tristan said. “There doesn’t seem to be any training going on at all. They are kept in pens.”
Tristan says she has attempted several times to contact the facility and the foundation about the dogs. But she said staff ignores her calls and in two cases, taunted her. “The last time I called, the woman said, ‘They’re dogs. … Do what you have to do,’ and then she hung up on me.”
At the foundation office in Claremont, Calif., a staff member said Thursday they have never received any complaints from residents. The staff member refused to identify herself and hung up when asked about the barking.
Foundation President Gwen Brown has not returned repeated requests for interviews.
Jean Anderton, who also lives near the facility, said she has heard the dogs barking at all hours. Worse, she said, when she walks her own dogs anywhere near the facility’s grounds, the dogs inside growl ferociously.
“They go berserk,” Anderton said.
It hasn’t always been that way, said neighbors, adding that they have contacted Phoenix officials and are considering putting together a petition. In the past, they said, trainers would walk the dogs through the neighborhood and let them interact with residents. Anderton and Tristan both said the dogs were well-behaved, managed with sincerity and did not bark.
They said the facility was open to the public and you could watch dogs being trained throughout the day. Now, they said, the facility gates are locked, they rarely see any staff, aside from maintenance crews, and the dogs are left to bark.
They say changes occurred about two years ago, which coincides with the time that Brown took over operations.
Since 2007, the foundation has gone through a series of trainers, padlocked the gates of its facility multiple times, and has become embroiled in lawsuits with local volunteers who raise puppies in their homes until the dogs are ready for training.
At the same time, records show that the nonprofit foundation has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and interest from stocks and bonds; giving it more than $7 million in assets.
The volunteer puppy raisers say they are concerned the dogs aren’t being trained for the blind and say they are worried about how the dogs are being cared for at the facility. Residents living near the training facility are equally concerned.
“Poor animals,” Tristan said. “It is not their fault.”
I really don’t have words to describe everything I feel about this. I’m beyond appalled. But what I really want to know is WHY there isn’t anything being done about this?! Where is GDUI or NAGDU regarding this? Or even IAADP? How about the other schools throughout the country? The only thing I’ve heard in the last year was that The Seeing Eye was going to do follow-up support for EDF graduates. But I haven’t heard anything regarding what would happen with the dogs. And clearly they are not being treated well. And even if this article is exaggerating about the dogs, and I think it’s more probable that it’s omitting even more grotesque details, why hasn’t the ASPCA or The Humane Society stepped in and done something?
I’m the first to admit that I can get pretty damn preachy about animal rights and humane pet care. And that when it comes to a handler I am even more hypercritical. Dogs especially are an animal that live their entire lives trying to make their humans happy and it goes tenfold more for a handler. And in the case of a guide dog user, we’re talking about an dog by it’s very job description trained to keep that blind person safe! I may have some qualms about certain schools practices, but I generally keep my mouth shut because I feel those schools are at least doing some right by their dogs. This? This is not doing right in any possible definition.
I’m disgusted beyond reason. And incredibly worried about the health and well being of those poor GSDs. There’s just no reason for such a thing to be allowed and overlooked for so long.