Life Mental Health

Saturday 20 September 2014

Autism charity shuts waiting list for help dogs

Published 02/04/2014 | 02:30

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Noah Coughlan with his guide dog Picasso the dog at  Boat Strand Cove, Co Waterford. Photo: Karen Dempsey
Noah Coughlan with his guide dog Picasso the dog at Boat Strand Cove, Co Waterford. Photo: Karen Dempsey
Rachel Cahill and her little brother Matthew. Photo: Barry Cronin
Rachel Cahill and her little brother Matthew. Photo: Barry Cronin

A CHARITY has been forced to close its waiting list for children with autism who want an assistance dog because it cannot cope with the demand.

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Irish Guide Dogs says that due to a "massive over-demand" for its services it had to close the waiting list for its Autism Assistance Dog Programme for a second time in March.

The service had only reopened in January but within the first hour it was swamped with 30 new applications. This was the first time it had reopened since the summer of 2012, when waiting times had reached five years.

The Autism Assistance Dog Programme is thought to help autistic children because the dogs act as a safety aid and promote calmness.

Research by UCC, which is to be published in the 'British Medical Journal' has found that the programme had "significant benefits" for parents and guardians of children with autism.

DEMAND

Irish Guide Dogs chief executive Padraig Mallon said they had allowed the waiting list to remain open until it reached a two to three-year time period. Anything longer was unsustainable.

He said the charity did not have the financial or human resources to meet the over-demand and that state funding for the service had been cut significantly over the past few years.

Irish Guide Dogs relies on fundraising and donations for 80pc of its income, with the remaining 20pc coming from the Government.

Mr Mallon added: "We are most certainly disappointed that we had to close the list again. I would like to thank our dedicated staff and volunteers, particularly our dog trainers and instructors who really worked hard to clear the waiting list and to train as many people as possible."

Irish Guide Dogs has appealed for donations, which can be made by texting 'WOOF' to 57500 to donate €2.50 or through its website, www.guidedogs.ie.

Irish Independent

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