Advocacy is defined as public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.
GDUC's Advocacy Committee will support guide dog handlers when they are having problems accessing transportation, retail businesses, and other public venues. We are able to provide advice and guidance as to how to deal with an access refusal. We can also direct the individual to appropriate provincial or territorial legislation to assist them in fighting for their rights.
When larger or systemic issues come to light, the committee sets forth to find a solution. By way of example, in 2013 a resolution was accepted for the creation of a committee to deal with fake service dogs.
Over recent years dogs have been trained to assist people in many ways. Dogs can detect seizures, low blood sugar levels, heart attacks, emotional distress, and help those with psychiatric illnesses. This explosion of canines being able to help humans has led to unscrupulous dog owners who feel their pets should be allowed in public places.
Unfortunately, the internet allows easy access to equipment and identification for dog owners who want to masquerade their pets as guides or other service dogs. These canines often lack proper training and are in need of a thorough grooming.
When these dog owners bring their pets into public venues, and the animals do not behave appropriately, the public obtains a poor impression of service dogs. When a legitimate guide enters their establishments, business owners may refuse the guide because of past experience.
The fake service dog problem is a difficult one to manage. Although there is legislation in place throughout North America to protect legitimate guides, it does not prevent frauds. While GDUC acknowledges the need to lobby our parliamentary representatives, this issue needs to be dealt with on several levels.
Schools that train guide dogs are gradually coming to recognise the problem. At our 2014 conference in Toronto, a lively panel discussion, featuring input from 3 guide dog school representatives, was held on this thorny issue. Listen to the Discussion.
GDUC encourages its members to lead by example by ensuring that their guides are always well behaved and clean. We recommend that handlers always carry their official guide dog identification cards and be prepared to show them when asked. We further believe that education is an important component in combatting this growing problem. Please Contact Our Advocacy Committee if you would like a member of GDUC to provide you or your organization with more information.
There are times when advocacy can be said to be proactive as opposed to reactive. Proactive advocacy involves adopting a position on a topic before a problem occurs. This is the primary reason why GDUC participates in the Consumer Access Group, CAG, a CNIB lead coalition of vision disability focused organizations.
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