The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that was founded in 1929, pioneering the assistance dog training movement and rights to public access in the United States. It provides specially bred and trained dogs to guide people who are blind or visually impaired. Seeing Eye dog users experience greatly enhanced mobility and independence, allowing them to retain their active lifestyles.
“When The Seeing Eye was founded in 1929, people who are blind were treated much differently than they are today,” said Seeing Eye president and CEO Jim Kutsch. “When Dorothy Harrison Eustis trained Buddy, the first Seeing Eye dog, she was ahead of her time. She told our co-founder Morris Frank that Buddy was not going to be much help to him if businesses wouldn’t allow him to enter with his dog. As a result, Frank and Buddy became traveling spokespeople for the guide dog movement.”
Frank and his German Shepherd Seeing Eye dog Buddy are credited with paving the way for the nationwide acceptance of service dogs and the drafting and subsequent passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which grants the right of public access to people assisted by service dogs.
On January 29, the organization celebrated 90 years of working to enhance the independence and dignity of people who are blind and visually impaired, making it the oldest guide dog school in the world. The Seeing Eye will be hosting a 90th Anniversary Gala on May 7, 2019 at Natirar – Ninety Acres in Peapack, New Jersey to celebrate this milestone.
After nine decades, The Seeing Eye continues to honor the legacy of Frank and Buddy by educating the public about the rights of people with disabilities and pursuing legislation that will further protect guide dog teams.
The Seeing Eye is headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey. Each year, approximately 260 people from across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico come to the facilities to train with a new Seeing Eye dog. The Seeing Eye breeds, raises and trains German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and a cross of the Labrador and Golden Retriever. Puppies at least 6 months of age wear Seeing Eye vests that indicate their passing of a basic obedience and temperament test. Newly trained Seeing Eye dogs then wear a Seeing Eye harness and leash that are used to lead and guide someone who is blind or visually impaired.
The Seeing Eye tuition is $150 for the first dog, $50 for each subsequent dog and just $1 for veterans of the military. The tuition covers the dog, travel expenses, room and board, specialized training in the care and use of the dog and the dog’s equipment. The rates have been unchanged since the early 1930s, despite the cost to breed, raise and train a Seeing Eye dog rising to more than $60,000 today. The funds to cover the expenses are donated by private individuals, corporations, bequests and other planned gifts.
The Seeing Eye’s vision is to be recognized for sustained excellence and continuous improvement as the best guide dog school to attend and to support, whether as a donor, volunteer, puppy raiser or employee.
Kutsch added: “I know our founders would be proud of what they set in motion 90 years ago. We look forward to the next 90 years—and beyond—as we continue to be an innovator and pioneer in the field of breeding, raising and training outstanding Seeing Eye dogs for people who are blind and visually impaired.”
Even with nine decades under its belt, The Seeing Eye is not stopping anytime soon; the organization is looking to continue its mission of increasing independence and providing assistance and education.