Lions Foundation of Canada was founded in 1983 by Lions Clubs across Canada. The vision was to provide Dog Guides, at no cost to Canadians with visual disabilities, helping them to achieve freedom and independence. The Lions Foundation began with the Canine Vision Canada Dog Guide program in 1985, ensuring its graduates would “never walk alone” again.
In 1988, the Foundation expanded with the Hearing Ear Dog Guide program, providing Dog Guides to Canadians who are deaf or hard-of hearing. This addition ensures new Dog Guide handlers would have a “link to the world of sound”.
In 1991, a third Dog Guide program, Special Skills Dog Guides, was added to extend Dog Guide capabilities to individuals with other physical or medical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or injury due to accidents. These Dog Guides ensure their handlers “will never be alone”.
The Special Skills program recently expanded with the introduction of the Seizure Response Dog Guides. The Dog Guides are trained to assist people with epilepsy by responding to their seizures.
The Foundation’s newest program is Autism Assistance Dog Guides. These Dog Guides help provide safety, companionship and unconditional love for children 4-12 years of age who have autism. As well as providing comfort and consistency for both the child and their family, Autism Assistance Dog Guides provide calming relief for children in high anxiety situations, and reduces the stress commonly experienced in public places. Bonding with the Dog Guide helps both the child and their family gain increased independence and social interaction.
Each Dog Guide costs the Lions Foundation approximately $20,000, yet they are provided at no cost to Canadians with disabilities. This incredible gift of freedom and independence is made possible only through the dedicated support and generosity of several groups. From the foster families who raise the puppies, to the Lions Clubs, Lioness Clubs, Leo Clubs, individual and corporate donors who provide the financial backing, each pillar of support makes the Foundation’s work possible.
All of the Canine Vision graduate teams have sponsors from Lions, other service clubs, individuals and corporations. We are hoping for more sponsors for the rapidly growing Hearing Ear, Special Skills, Seizure Response and Autism Assistance programs. Sponsorship helps offset the true cost of a Dog Guide team.
Canine Vision Dog Guide team sponsorship is $6,000
Hearing Ear Dog Guide teams are $4,000
Special Skills and Seizure Response Dog Guide teams are $10,000 Autism Assistance Dog Guide teams are $12,000.
Each sponsorship is vital in offsetting the $20,000 true cost to the Foundation.
Over the past five years, the Lions Foundation has worked to increase the number of graduate teams. Each Dog Guide program has grown in demand, in particular the Special Skills and Seizure Response Dog Guide program as it appeals to a wide range of disabilities and includes graduates as young as 10 years of age. The waiting list for the Special Skills Dog Guide program has never been higher, and the Foundation is doing its best to reduce what can be a lengthy wait for a Dog Guide.
While we are encouraged that greater awareness and demand for the Dog Guides is ever increasing, we need to ensure that we have the funding to achieve our goals.
- To date over 1400 Dog Guides teams have graduated
- There are 565 active right across Canada
- There are 183 people currently on the waiting list for a Dog Guide
To meet these ever growing needs we need increased funding. We encourage you to join in our mission of providing freedom, independence and confidence to Canadians with disabilities. Your support helps the Lions Foundation of Canada to achieve our commitment of service. Together we can make an incredible difference.
The future Dog Guides are bred at our facility in Breslau and then placed with a foster family for approximately a year with specific and strict training guidelines before they are again tested for suitability in their role. Those individuals in need who are partnered with a dog are trained in Oakville at no cost. Over the past many years the Lions Club of Kitchener has contributed over $600.000.00 to this valuable program much coming from revenues of our Magic Show held in November of each year.