Cause & Effect: The Extended Impact of The Seeing Eye
2009 Annual Report
Letter From the President and CEO of The Seeing Eye
At the end of every year, one cannot help but to look back on the highlights of the previous 12 months. My reflection on the fiscal year just ended reminded me of the adage, "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." How true that is here at The Seeing Eye. The "whole" result of our efforts always is so much more than the sum of the individual parts. We completed our usual 12 classes during the year, for example, but the whole result of that was that 254 people trained with new Seeing Eye dogs, 75 of them with their first dogs ever.
Like most other philanthropic organizations, The Seeing Eye experienced a year during which revenues were smaller than in the recent past. But our determination to try new things, address changing environments, and confront challenges head-on had a cumulative effect – a "whole," if you will – that allows us to maintain the same quality of programs for which The Seeing Eye has been known for 81 years.
People who are blind or visually impaired continue to seek our services in record numbers. Last year, we had our third-straight year of record numbers of inquiries. Over a five-year period, the number of inquiries increased by 212. Applicants continue to reach out to us as a result of our reputation for overall excellence, many of them attracted specifically because of the quality of our training and dogs, and the fact that we continue to offer German shepherds.
During the year, we served 179 people returning for successor dogs, and, as I mentioned, we welcomed 75 new students. Our students graduated with 85 Labrador retrievers, 74 German shepherds, 62 Labrador/golden crosses, and 34 golden retrievers. We continue our unrivaled follow-up support for our 1,760 working Seeing Eye teams, completing 425 visits to 46 states and five provinces in order to assist 677 of our graduates.
Students are overwhelmingly positive about their in-class experiences when we conduct their exit interviews. One comment we hear most often is how much students appreciate the high degree of respect they receive in all areas of their Seeing Eye experience, and the warm social atmosphere they experience by having contact with all levels of our staff. Returning students comment on continual enhancements to the program, as we strive not only to maintain, but also to build upon our high standards.
In the last quarter of the year, we merged the Programs Department (responsible for instruction and training, puppy raising, and kennels) with the Student Services Department (responsible for matters pertaining to admissions and non-instructional student-related services). The new department, Instruction & Training, now focuses on admissions plus all student and graduate programs, while a new department, Canine Development, encompasses puppy raising, genetics, and the kennels. Our goal in making these changes was to improve services to our students and graduates and to further increase our canine success rate.
At the breeding facility last year, 562 puppies were whelped from 71 litters, an average litter size of 7.9 pups. The success of The Seeing Eye's breeding program allows us to train the very best dogs to match with our students and to decrease the numbers of puppies needed to meet students' needs. With that success, by the end of the fiscal year we were able to reduce the number of dogs in the puppy raising program to 606, down from 804 at the end of the previous fiscal year, ending the year with 597 puppy raising families, compared to 762 at the end of 2008.
In addition to these accomplishments, The Seeing Eye completed several key initiatives during the year including:
• The opening of the new Seeing Eye Jane H. Booker Student Center in downtown Morristown. Construction of the building began in October 2007. It was fitting that we welcomed our first class of 2009 to the new Center as our anniversary year kicked off in January.
• Celebrations marking our 80th Anniversary, beginning with ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange in January 2009, followed by the re-release of a DVD version of Walt Disney's 1967 feature on The Seeing Eye called "Atta Girl Kelly," including a special bonus track, "Then and Now," filmed here at The Seeing Eye. Other anniversary events included a partnership with the touring production of "Little House on the Prairie: The Musical"; Friends of The Seeing Eye events in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Toronto; and extensive media coverage of the anniversary including being named "Persons of the Week" by ABC World News.
• The hosting of a reunion for all Seeing Eye graduates, August 21-23, bringing together more than 200 graduates and their families, friends, and, of course, their dogs. Our guests toured the campus, attended seminars and demonstrations, and were present for the debut of two songs written and performed by singer/songwriter Sara Beck as a tribute to The Seeing Eye.
• The successful launch of our first-ever online auction. The auction closed on September 13 having raised almost $75,000. A second online auction is scheduled for May 3-13, 2010 (www.biddingforgood.com/SeeingEye).
• The installation of equipment and implementation of processes to begin extracting DNA from canine blood samples collected from all dogs returning to campus from their puppy raisers. We are also extracting DNA from frozen samples collected from every dog that had passed through our veterinary clinic since 2002.
This last item is one that merits special explanation and attention. In the course of performing the many tasks that comprise our program, so much of what we do has far-reaching consequences. The impact of our extraction of DNA is but one example.
The DNA we collect can be sent to an outside laboratory for processing to obtain important genetic markers. The resulting data will be available not just to us, but eventually could assist researchers all over the world. This data is critical to the breeding of physically and temperamentally sound working dogs that will serve as guides for blind and visually-impaired individuals. It is also our hope that the studies will benefit dogs in general by resulting in more thoughtful and less indiscriminate breeding of all dog breeds. This, in turn, would reduce the canine population and enhance the well-being of dogs nationally and worldwide.
In this annual report, we hope to illustrate that as The Seeing Eye continues as always to execute, with excellence, our core mission of changing the lives of our students, the sum of those parts results in a "whole" in which countless others find that their lives or the lives of their pets are changed. We recognize that in focusing on and fulfilling our mission, others benefit from many tangential consequences. More likely than not, those beneficiaries are unaware of the source, but we know where the credit is due. Innumerable lives are changed thanks to our donors who, first of all, support our mission to enhance the lives of people who are blind, and, perhaps without even knowing it, manage to facilitate that whole result that touches so many others. We can never thank you enough.
James A. Kutsch, Jr.
President & CEO
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
Letter From the Officers of The Seeing Eye
A year ago, we predicted that fiscal year 2009 would be a challenging one, and that certainly held true. But the good news is that The Seeing Eye met those challenges and came out stronger as a result. In spite of shortfalls in major gift and legacy revenue, all of the data confirm that the organization continued to meet its goals, accomplish its mission, and prepare for continued success in future years.
Economic uncertainty impacted the ability of donors to make major financial commitments. Further, although The Seeing Eye received an increased number of legacy gifts, the value of those gifts was depressed, resulting in a shortfall in legacy revenue. Our financial reserves were diminished by investment portfolio declines, combined with a need to draw more from those reserves to meet operating expense requirements. Still, The Seeing Eye weathered the storm.
Strategic planning in 2008 resulted in a commitment to prioritize in-year fundraising, and the implementation of those plans brought positive results in 2009. Continuing these efforts will strengthen the school's financial position throughout the coming years.
Seeing Eye graduates are counting on the organization's financial strength. They count on The Seeing Eye to be there when it comes time to replace their dogs. More than ever, we rely on the support of donors to make that happen. The contributions made by individuals, foundations, corporations, and organizations have sustained the school throughout its history and are essential to its future success.
Throughout 2009, The Seeing Eye's 80th anniversary year, a banner stretched across a fence just outside the school's main building. It read, "Leading the way for 80 years." That slogan can be interpreted in more than one way. Obviously, the dogs "lead the way" for their owners, serving as the eyes for people who are blind or visually impaired. The Seeing Eye also "leads the way," as the organization that pioneered the international dog guide movement beginning in 1929, and that continues to pioneer training methods, research, and programs that respond to the changing environments in which blind people travel.
As Officers of the Board of Trustees, we believe that the economic challenges of the past two years provided an opportunity for The Seeing Eye to demonstrate leadership among non-profit organizations. In combination with your financial support, The Seeing Eye's commitment to fiscal responsibility, strategic planning, and adherence to its mission have positioned the organization to lead the way for 80 years to come. Please accept our deepest gratitude for everything you do to demonstrate your support.
Michael W. Ranger
Lewis M. Chakrin
James A. Kutsch, Jr.
President & CEO, The Seeing Eye
Cause & Effect: The Extended Impact of The Seeing Eye
In September 2009, The Seeing Eye graduated its 15,000th dog guide team. New York City resident Josephine DeFini and her black Lab Zion completed their training and began their life together, making their way through the crowded sidewalks and streets of their hometown.
Dr. DeFini and Zion represent The Seeing Eye mission in motion, as do the 14,999 teams before them. This is where the impact of our organization is most visible … on the streets, in offices, at the gym, behind school desks. Seeing Eye teams are all about movement, independence, and productivity. This is the goal. It is our mission.
The image of the team is what draws attention and grabs the headlines. But in the process of building those teams, The Seeing Eye impacts another world as a result. It is no surprise that the work of The Seeing Eye affects more than just those who are matched with dogs. The lives of their families, friends, and co-workers – sometimes even entire communities – are changed, as well. In a broader sense, though, the consequences of The Seeing Eye's core mission, to enhance the lives of people who are blind through the use of Seeing Eye dogs, has effects that are far beyond the obvious.
People around the globe with certain types of blindness are closer to a cure, owners of all varieties of service dogs make their way through airport security with ease and dignity, pet dogs enjoy better health, and pedestrians across North America are safer, all thanks, in part, to The Seeing Eye.
Lives are changed each time a Seeing Eye dog is matched with a blind person. But no one knows exactly how many others will be changed as a result of the efforts behind the creation of that team. We hope the stories in these pages provide a glimpse into a few of those lives.
This annual report is dedicated to all the people who make it possible for so many lives to be touched … the friends and donors of The Seeing Eye.
Changing Attitudes and Laws
The Seeing Eye Builds a Legacy of Advocacy
When Seeing Eye President & CEO Jim Kutsch recently sent a letter to New Hampshire state legislators, he was sustaining a course of action that began the moment Morris Frank returned from Switzerland with the first Seeing Eye dog, Buddy, and entered the streets of New York City.
In this more recent case, Kutsch requested the withdrawal of a proposed bill allowing businesses to require proof that a customer's dog guide was, in fact, a service animal. In the earliest days of our history, letters and personal visits from Morris Frank and other employees paved the way for dog guide teams to use public modes of transportation, enter restaurants, stay in hotels, obtain housing, and secure employment.
The success of the entire international guide dog movement hinged on the relentless determination of a succession of advocates who ensured that blind people with dogs would have access to all public accommodations. By 1941, 40 U.S. states had adopted some type of access law, and yet that very same year, Frank found himself denied access to a famous New York City hotel. A prolific letter writer, his note to the hotel manager was one of his most succinct. He wrote, "The issue is: Have blind men and women the right to be independent? For, unless the dogs can take them where they want to go, the dogs are of no value."
Today, federal, state and provincial laws guarantee the rights of people who are blind to travel freely with their dog guides anywhere within the United States and Canada. Other laws prohibit discrimination in housing and employment. And yet our advocacy work continues. Laws change, new employees join businesses and create a need for ongoing education, and less-than-responsible pet owners still let their dogs distract and interfere with dog guide teams.
"We receive dozens of calls and emails from individuals and businesses each month, related to some type of advocacy issue," said Ginger Kutsch, a graduate of The Seeing Eye and volunteer who leads our advocacy efforts. She enlists a team of staff members and a corps of graduate volunteers to ensure that each request is answered with appropriate guidance, materials, or proactive intervention that might include written testimony or letters of support.
With more than 80 years of experience in the breeding, raising, and training of guide dogs, The Seeing Eye is considered a leading expert on public policy issues in the field. Jay Stiteley, Outreach Specialist and graduate of The Seeing Eye, serves on Delta Airlines' Customer Advisory Board on Disabilities. He provides guidance to the airline as it develops policies relating to any customer with a disability. Seeing Eye employees, including Stiteley, are often called upon by the federal Transportation Security Administration to assist in its officer training sessions. TSA officers are taught methods of airport screening for dog guide teams that maintain sensitivity while meeting security guidelines.
Advocacy is an important enough topic to The Seeing Eye that students attend a lecture devoted to the subject while they are in class to train with new dogs. Once they return home and encounter the real-world, they often become advocates within their own communities. "Last year alone, our graduates were in the forefront of pursuing stronger dog guide protection or access legislation in California, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin," said Kutsch.
Kutsch (wife of Seeing Eye President Jim Kutsch), also maintains an online discussion forum for staff members from other U.S. guide dog schools. Kutsch routinely posts information about recent news articles, current legislation and advocacy-related resources. The list also provides a place where school representatives can discuss strategies to advocate for the rights of all dog guide users.
Just as Morris Frank knew that the benefits of a Seeing Eye dog would be strictly limited without access, all the knowledge The Seeing Eye has collected relating to access needs to be accessible, too. To solve this, three years ago The Seeing Eye added a new section to its website, specifically devoted to advocacy-related topics. Those website pages (available at www.SeeingEye.org/access) are the most comprehensive collection of online material available relating to dog guide team access and protection.
Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, is not a Seeing Eye graduate, but recognizes the impact of the school's decades of advocacy work. In his role as the head of this division of the National Federation of the Blind and as a dog guide user for 23 years, Gwizdala is in constant contact with graduates of dog guide schools across North America. "In 1928, Morris Frank became a pioneer by having the first trained guide dog in the United States. The following year, seventeen more blind people began a movement," says Gwizdala. "This handful of courageous men and women set out to demonstrate how a well-trained guide dog could function inconspicuously in public places."
When these earliest guide dog teams encountered their first roadblocks to public access, there were no state laws to protect them. It was up to them to demonstrate the value of their dogs in the enhancement of their independence and to demonstrate the necessity of legal protection, he added.
Thanks to them, says Gwizdala, "there are remedies in [every state and province] for the denial of access to a blind person and our right to be accompanied by a guide dog."
Breakthrough Research Has Far-Reaching Effects
Pet Populations, and Even Humans, Reap the Benefits
Selective breeding and adoption of medical screening techniques have brought significant improvements in the health of our dogs and increased the chances of our puppies having the physical attributes, temperament and behavioral traits that enhance their likelihood of success as guides.
Those improvements did not happen by pure chance.
Sometimes research is initiated by The Seeing Eye; other times by outside researchers interested in mining data from a colony of dogs with well-documented pedigrees. Regardless of the original intent, discoveries made as a result of sharing data and genetic material or by outright funding of research have effects that spread not only throughout the canine world but into breakthrough research on disease and behavior of other species … sometimes even humans.
These are just four examples.
Identifying the Cause of a Form of Canine Blindness
"There are immense similarities in the DNA of dogs when compared to humans," says Dr. Eldin Leighton, the Jane H. Booker Chair in Canine Genetics at The Seeing Eye. "Dogs have more than 350 inherited disorders, many of which have similar human counterparts. We are seeing the fruition of years of canine research – much of which was dependent on data from Seeing Eye dogs – now bringing about advances in the treatment of humans."
For example, during the 1990s, The Seeing Eye funded research that led to the identification of a gene that causes a specific form of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) called progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD), a disease that causes canine blindness. Over a 10-year period, The Seeing Eye contributed to the Morris Animal Foundation to fund the work of Dr. Gustavo Aguirre, a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, then at Cornell University and now at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the country's leading researchers in canine blindness.
Dr. Aguirre, who also served on The Seeing Eye's Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2009, first diagnosed PRA in one of The Seeing Eye's female breeders in 1992. "The Seeing Eye realized that there was a problem and committed to funding research for a solution," he says. His efforts first resulted in the ability to identify potential carriers so selective breeding could help to avoid producing affected offspring. Other service dog organizations have adopted the same screening methods and have benefited, as well. Today, The Seeing Eye has no dogs affected with PRA and only an occasional carrier for the recessive gene.
Further studies on other forms of inherited blindness in dogs led to additional discoveries, says Dr. Aguirre. "Eventually, we showed that through gene therapy, we could treat one form of canine blindness." The success of this treatment inspired scientists who study human blindness to apply his findings to their own field. The results have been so positive that those researchers recently launched three different clinical trials in people to treat a form of childhood blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis.
"Funding PRCD research was critical to guide dog programs worldwide," says Dr. Aguirre. "That discovery, thanks to funding by The Seeing Eye, has benefited all the schools. This is the most common form of canine blindness, affecting 28 breeds of dogs, and now there's a test for it. On a larger scale, all dog breeders have access to this test, thus preventing the production of offspring that will become blind."
Canine Behavior Studies Hinge on Seeing Eye Data
Dr. James Serpell, a world-renowned canine behavior specialist with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, just completed a four-year behavior analysis in young dogs that will provide early indicators of which dogs are most likely to be successful as service dogs. The Seeing Eye provided crucial data and sought and secured a grant for Serpell's research. "This type of research would be almost impossible without the active cooperation and collaboration of the organizations that breed and train these wonderful dogs," says Serpell. "The Seeing Eye has led these efforts both nationally and internationally."
Information about puppy behavior provided by Seeing Eye puppy raisers, plus information collected on the activities of those same dogs as adults, resulted in the creation of several tools to define canine behavior. After several years of study, results indicated that assessments made by puppy raisers when the dogs were a year old were surprisingly good at predicting the success of dogs in training. Serpell is in the process of writing the results of his research for publication.
"The Seeing Eye has played a crucial leadership role in all of this work," adds Serpell. "Indeed, I doubt if any of it could have been accomplished without The Seeing Eye's unfailing support. Dr. Leighton, Dr. Dolores Holle [Director of Canine Medicine & Surgery] and others at the organization not only helped us secure funding, but opened doors for us to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with other guide and service dog organizations that were crucial to our research."
He anticipates that the entire international guide and service dog community ultimately will benefit from this research and the resulting behavior assessment test he developed, known as "C-BARQ." "Already, many organizations have adopted and are using assessment methods we developed, and we hope that many more will come on board over time."
The effects of The Seeing Eye's involvement continue. Thanks to the development and validation of methods of canine behavioral measurement, Serpell has built a foundation for his current research into specific causes of early retirement in working dogs. On a broader level, the success of these tests inspired Serpell to write a new questionnaire for use by dog owners in the general public.
"We are hoping to develop this for use as a screening tool to help veterinarians evaluate their clients' dogs for the presence of behavior problems. We (and many other researchers around the world) are also using the C-BARQ as an instrument to study the prevalence of behavior problems in the pet dog population. And the C-BARQ is being used by animal shelters and rescue organizations, trainers, and breeders as a behavioral assessment tool."
Bleeding Disorder Research Advances Treatment for Humans
Back in 1992, an unusual bleeding episode in a German shepherd Seeing Eye dog put into motion a series of events that put scientists on the right track to solve a human medical mystery.
After that initial episode, The Seeing Eye identified a few other extremely sporadic instances of German shepherds with unusual bleeding. "We linked up with Dr. Marjory Brooks and Dr. Jim Catalfamo at the Comparative Coagulation Laboratory at Cornell University's Diagnostic Center," says Dr. Eldin Leighton.
With The Seeing Eye's support in funding and access to its blood samples and affected dogs, the Coagulation Lab scientists discovered that the shepherds' bleeding tendency was caused by a single misstep in the highly complex process of blood coagulation.
Through extensive library and laboratory work, and discussions with biomedical researchers and hematologists, Drs. Brooks and Catalfamo realized that the shepherd disorder closely mimicked a condition in humans called Scott Syndrome. The first patient, Mary Scott, was diagnosed in the 1960s. Later studies identified a platelet function defect as the cause of her bleeding disorder. Platelets are small blood cell fragments that act as temporary building blocks for the development of more resilient blood clots. The shepherds' platelets, like those of Mrs. Scott, fail to provide the necessary framework for clot formation.
Cornell scientists then teamed with Dr. Dolores Holle and other Seeing Eye clinicians to develop effective transfusion therapy and simple screening tests to identify Scott Syndrome dogs. The research focus has now shifted to finding the disease gene, a culprit that has so far eluded human geneticists. "We think the Scott shepherds hold the key," says Dr. Brooks. "These dogs are guiding us through the maze of platelet function. Our most recent studies have zeroed in on a single canine chromosome where we believe the disease gene resides."
That initial examination of a "bruising" German shepherd continues to have cascading effects, with potential benefits for veterinary and human patients with bleeding disorders, and the possibility of developing of a whole new class of safe and effective anticoagulant drugs.
Canine Hip Screening Protocol Earns Worldwide Respect
One of the most common physical ailments among dogs is a disorder known as hip dysplasia. Generally defined as malformed hip joints, the disorder can often lead to progressive arthritis in the joint, causing a dog to have difficulty rising, lameness in its rear limbs, trouble negotiating stairs, a wobbling gait, and pain.
By the end of the 1970s, The Seeing Eye began formalizing a method to selectively breed out hip dysplasia by taking and evaluating radiographs (x-rays) of dogs' hips at some point between 14 and 16 months of age, then selecting for breeding only those dogs exhibiting the best hip quality. Radiographs, though administered at The Seeing Eye, were sent to the University of Pennsylvania for evaluation. Although the incidence of hip dysplasia fell markedly over the next several years, progress eventually hit a plateau. But then a veterinary surgeon at the University, Dr. Gail Smith, approached The Seeing Eye with an alternative.
He was experimenting with taking hip x-rays with the legs of the dogs in a neutral, standing position, rather than in the traditional pose, lying down with legs extended. While he had a new method of measuring hip laxity, what he needed in order to establish its efficacy was data, and The Seeing Eye had plenty of dogs to provide that resource. In the late '80s, The Seeing Eye began funding Dr. Smith's work through the Morris Animal Foundation and provided him with radiographs of its dogs positioned using this new procedure.
The test that Dr. Smith developed as a result, called PennHIP®, is now the standard used not only by The Seeing Eye but, increasingly, by veterinarians worldwide. Still, Dr. Dolores Holle and her team at The Seeing Eye were the first to employ PennHIP technology outside the University of Pennsylvania.
"This has become the most effective means available of preventing what is a major health issue for dogs," says Dr. Smith. Most recently, veterinarians in New Zealand have accepted PennHIP as the protocol for hip screening, and Australia is running parallel PennHIP and standard tests. Comparisons will be compiled for five years to determine the protocol moving forward.
"It started as just an idea, and now there are more than 90,000 dogs in the database," says Dr. Smith. "I always say that ideas are cheap … it's the proof of an idea that is expensive, and it was the 'proof' that The Seeing Eye funded and made happen. If that money didn't come, we would not have been able to accomplish what we did. I am forever grateful not just to The Seeing Eye but all the wonderful people there that cared enough to make this happen."
Taking It to the Streets
Safe Passage for Blind Pedestrians Just Happens to Help Us All
"If Morris Frank and Buddy had arrived in New York City just 10 years earlier, they might not have been able to get around the city safely, and the entire dog guide movement would have been a failure."
The Seeing Eye's Lukas Franck knows that's a strong statement and, of course, there's no way to prove it. But as the person most responsible for the organization's new training initiatives, Franck knows enough of the history of mobility to back it up.
Fortuitously, the entire industry of traffic engineering happened to get its start just a few years before the establishment of The Seeing Eye, he explains. When Morris Frank landed in New York City in 1928, impressing the entire city with his safe travels with Buddy throughout the busy metropolis, an interconnected system of traffic lights had been successfully regulating Manhattan traffic for six years.
It had been less than 20 years since various inventors began patenting their traffic light systems. Before long, intersections in busy cities were running like clockwork. Lights changed at timed intervals and with complete predictability. People with visual impairments needed only to listen to the movement of traffic to know when it was safe to cross a street.
All that has changed, says Franck, and it has fallen to advocates like himself to urge traffic engineers to negotiate a truce between efficient traffic flow and pedestrian safety. As Senior Consultant/New Initiatives at The Seeing Eye, Franck's job is to seek out, recommend and implement innovative solutions to challenges in the dog guide world. It so happens that many of those innovations assist non-dog guide users, as well, whether they are sighted or not.
"When The Seeing Eye first started teaching people to travel with dog guides, the industry of traffic engineering was also in its infancy. It's interesting that two areas that would become so intertwined would be totally unaware of each other for so long," says Franck. "Blind people just exploited the products of traffic engineers without any thought of who had created these systems."
After working at The Seeing Eye since 1978, Franck temporarily left the organization in 1986-87 to earn his master's in orientation and mobility. Orientation and mobility specialists teach people who are blind to navigate and to orient themselves within their environments. "In 1995, I started traveling a lot to visit Seeing Eye graduates in the field and noticed so many grads were running into problematic intersections. I was in Atlanta and had requests from three different graduates for help with identical problems crossing intersections. That was when I had an epiphany!"
Franck realized that this was not a local problem but a national one, as the availability of computers and traffic sensors was beginning to impact the entire infrastructure of North America. "I found myself asking, 'Who is building these things?" he says.
Suddenly, traffic lights that had created avenues of independence for blind pedestrians had turned into barriers. Lights were staying red or green for widely fluctuating intervals. Pedestrian crossing lights were changing to red while people were only halfway across the street. Today, most traffic signals are "traffic-actuated," that is, they are triggered to change based on actual traffic flow. Efforts to make crossings safer by installing pedestrian crossing lights only complicated matters for people with visual impairments. A crossing signal may only stay green for seven seconds unless the pedestrian button is pushed, for example. But with no regulations or standards of where those buttons should be placed, a person who is blind may be unaware that there is a button or be unable to locate it.
"I've actually seen pedestrian buttons that are located behind fences. There's just no consistency," says Franck.
After his return from Atlanta, he went straight to the library to find out how people receive training to be traffic engineers. Before that, he'd never heard the words "traffic" and "engineer" in the same sentence, but almost immediately found himself at a traffic engineering conference. "I bought a book there – Basics of Traffic Engineering – and read it on the plane home. Right then, I knew that's where we needed to be. These were the people who were drafting the regulations."
Since then, Franck has insinuated himself into the world of traffic engineers to an extent that as one of a handful of experts on accessible pedestrian signals, Franck is now making presentations to traffic engineers at their conferences. Today The Seeing Eye's voice, via Franck, is heard on matters ranging from making traffic "roundabouts" safer for pedestrians, to creating specifications for exact placement of pedestrian crossing buttons, to recommending what sounds audible pedestrian signals should make to tell people when it's safe to cross.
He has served as chair of the Environmental Access Committee of the Orientation and Mobility Division of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, training a cadre of orientation and mobility specialists to consult with traffic engineers on making street crossings accessible to pedestrians who are visually impaired. He has also worked closely with the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Devices, which recommends regulations on traffic control devices that are adopted by the Federal Highway Administration. Just last December, the FHA published a revision of its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which for the first time includes specific requirements for placement of pedestrian crossing buttons.
"People are not going to see an immediate change-over," he says. "It takes a generation for changes in our infrastructure to take place since it will be done in phases. It's like planting trees. It takes a long time for a tree to grow, but that tree's been planted." The streets have always served as The Seeing Eye's classroom, whether in Morristown, N.J., or in the hometowns of its graduates. "That's where we work," says Franck.
"So much of a blind person's independence relies on traffic engineering. If we can't influence that, we are sunk. You can be the best dog trainer in the world and do the best job of matching dogs to people, but if blind people feel they can't go anywhere because the roads aren't safe, it's a waste of everyone's resources."
Improving the Quality of Dog Guides Worldwide
Sharing Retired Breeders Broadens Our Impact
Seeing Eye graduates are scattered throughout the United States and Canada, the same region of the world that the school has served since its earliest years. During the course of providing dog guides to this particular population, though, people in many other countries who are blind or visually impaired benefit as a result.
One of the ways this happens is through sharing of Seeing Eye breeding stock with international schools. "By doing so, we are multiplying the impact of The Seeing Eye throughout the world," says Seeing Eye geneticist Dr. Eldin Leighton, the Jane H. Booker Chair in Canine Genetics. "We directly help about 270 people each year by matching them with dog guides, but in addition we can send one of our retired breeders overseas for another school to use, and it has immense impact."
A number of countries in Europe and Asia have their own dog guide schools, but do not have access to large numbers of dogs that have been bred selectively over the years specifically to produce the most desirable qualities of dog guides.
"Over the past years, we have sent four dogs to KNGF, a 75-year-old school in Holland, including two golden retrievers that have already been mated," says Dr. Leighton. "We have sent at least one female to another school, but normally we send males as they retire from our breeding colony, since their prime reproductive years last longer."
Even schools with well-established breeding colonies, including The Seeing Eye, must introduce outside breeders from time to time, in order to prevent the problems that occur with higher levels of inbreeding. "The Seeing Eye has been the primary source of outside, unrelated germ plasm for decades at Eyemate, a school that has been providing dog guides in Japan since 1957," he says. "They have looked at this as a source of honor or stamp of approval … to be able to say that the parentage of their dogs includes dogs from The Seeing Eye." The international schools appreciate that the history of these breeders is well-documented and that they are known to be of the highest quality, thanks to the thorough screening that takes place before any Seeing Eye dog is selected for breeding. The Seeing Eye retires all male breeders after they have sired eight litters to minimize the possibility of problems due to inbreeding.
"When we offer these studs to other schools, we know their reproductive capacity, and it makes a statement to the rest of the world that we think highly enough of these dogs to have used them for breeding. And we're saying, 'Now, we want to share them with you,'" says Dr. Leighton. "And the benefit to The Seeing Eye is that those schools are then willing to share dogs or semen with us when we need to expand the genetic diversity of our own colony."
Christine Baroni-Pretsch, owner of a Swiss school that had the chance to breed several females with Seeing Eye breeder Aaron, offers this perspective: "In sharing with us just one dog, Aaron, The Seeing Eye allowed us to take 20 years off the time it would have required for us to produce dogs of the same quality. The impact this will have on the lives of blind people in our country is tremendous."
Please Don't Call Them 'Failures'
Changed Careers Offer Heroic Opportunities
The selection of a dog to become the partner of a blind person is, in effect, a multi-tiered process of elimination. Only the best of the best make it through each phase of medical screening, behavior testing, and formal training. The rest either return to their original puppy raising families or enter our adoption program, where they have yet another chance to change someone's life or enter a different kind of working career.
Many of those dogs are adopted by law enforcement agencies, where they are trained to sniff out narcotics, explosives, or even accelerants used by arsonists. Still others become search and rescue dogs.
We often hear stories from puppy raisers and other families who have adopted Seeing Eye dogs about how these docile, friendly creatures have influenced autistic children to speak their first words, learned to alert their families when one of the children is about to have a seizure, or awakened their owners to save them from a fire. Examples abound of just how amazing these dogs can be, even though they did not reach the pinnacle of guiding a person who is blind. No one could possibly call them "rejects" or "failures." To us, they are just "heroes."
A Therapeutic Presence
Five-year-old Luke is about as calm a dog as you'll ever find, says his owner Roger Woodhour. "He's fabulous!"
The Woodhours, Roger and Sheila, have plenty of other dogs to compare to Luke. They've raised 27 puppies for The Seeing Eye. But Luke was not one of their puppies. Instead, he came to them when he was 3 after being raised by another puppy raising family and expending a great deal of effort to train as a Seeing Eye dog.
But this docile German shepherd was just a little too timid. In harness, Luke felt the immense responsibility of guiding his instructor across busy streets and was withdrawn from training after only a month due to his fear of traffic. "Out of harness, though, he's totally relaxed," says Woodhour. "He's a big boy, but as gentle as he can be."
The Woodhours decided to adopt Luke three years ago, and immediately recognized that Luke's true strength was his serene nature, so they had him certified as a therapy dog. Through the organization, Woodhour learned about the success of a program that encourages children to read in the presence of dogs.
He decided to approach the middle school where he substitute teaches about starting a program there, and Luke began his new career. "Really, Luke does nothing except just be there while kids are reading, lying next to them, putting his head in their laps. A dog is not judgmental, and children who have had problems with reading, including dyslexia or stuttering, suddenly read much better."
From there, Woodhour made arrangements with assisted living centers, nursing homes, and even an outpatient cancer unit of a hospital for Luke to visit. Many times, he has seen nursing home residents who are otherwise unresponsive engage with Luke, petting him and smiling.
"These visits invariably get people talking about the dogs from their past, and the response is one of happiness and joy … although sometimes it will bring a tear to an eye because the memories are so vivid," says Woodhour.
Luke earned his 50-visit certificate and is well on his way to earning one for his 100th. For this gentle giant, each visit represents an opportunity for affection and praise, but for those people he touches, the difference Luke makes is without measure.
A Nose for Safety
The citizens of New Jersey are just a little bit safer today, thanks to the noses of six dogs from The Seeing Eye. These dogs, all of which began but did not complete training to guide people who are blind, comprise a K-9 unit that can sniff out one of the most threatening contraband weapons found in prisons today.
Apparently, inmates are not hiding these cell phones so they can phone home. Authorities suspect the phones may be used by inmates to continue their operations from behind bars, to direct drug activity, intimidate witnesses, and even plan escapes. While a cell phone might not emit an odor detectable by humans, something about these phones is so easily detected by dogs that they can even pick up the scent on an item that was stored next to a cell phone.
"It's a great security risk for us," said Sgt. William Crampton, supervisor of New Jersey Department of Corrections' K-9 Unit. "These dogs have been a major gift for us."
This team of former Seeing Eye dogs is the largest cell phone detection K-9 unit in the United States. The team has gained such a reputation in its year and a half existence that corrections departments from more than a dozen states recently attended a seminar conducted by Crampton's team and a K-9 unit from Maryland that formed at about the same time.
The New Jersey K-9 team, which already contained a number of "career change" dogs from The Seeing Eye used for detecting narcotics and explosives, received a letter from a man in California who was training dogs to sniff out cell phones. To say that Crampton and his colleagues were skeptical is an understatement. "Later, we found out that the state of Virginia had purchased two of the dogs, so we contacted them. They said, 'Believe it or not, it works!'"
The only problem was that the dogs cost about $7,000 each. Knowing the dogs from The Seeing Eye had been working successfully in the K-9 unit, the officers selected two dogs from The Seeing Eye's adoption program and began training. "We hit some bumps in the road at first, but once we got it, it just took off," said Crampton. "It's these dogs' upbringing that makes the difference … the exposure they receive in the puppy raisers' homes. We know their health. They're bred for working. And we know they can stay calm in the prison setting where there are open-grate stairs and loud conditions; things that would make most dogs very anxious."
Not only are these cell-phone detection dogs calm, but for them it's all fun and games. When dogs are selected for this type of work, officers are looking for dogs with extremely high play drive. "I can ask how long a dog likes to chase after a ball and if the answer is 'ten minutes,' no thanks. The answer needs to be more like two hours," he said.
When a dog picks up the scent of a cell phone, it will let the officer know by whining and prancing with excitement. The reward for the dog is a game of tug-of-war with a rolled up towel, plus heaps of verbal praise.
Since the dogs began their work in October 2008, they have located 157 phones, 147 chargers, and six cell phone batteries hidden in New Jersey's 13 state prisons. Just making the world a little safer from the bad guys.
There Are Many Ways to Define 'Service Dog'
As an instructional assistant in an elementary school, puppy raiser Donna Miller is lucky enough to be able to take the young dogs to work with her. The exposure to a school environment is especially helpful for a puppy that eventually might become a Seeing Eye dog for a parent of young children.
Part of Miller's day includes spending time in a "learning support" classroom attended by children with special needs. The third puppy her family raised, a German shepherd named Eliza, demonstrated a special affinity for children, but seemed to have a sense that she needed to curb her puppyish behavior in this particular classroom, says Miller. "I think she knew they were a little apprehensive of her, and she would scale back her pushiness with them."
As the school year progressed, though, the children became increasingly comfortable with Eliza. "She managed to ease them into her graces," explains Miller. "We all knew Eliza was going to be an awesome Seeing Eye dog."
When Eliza reached 17 months of age and she was two months overdue to return to The Seeing Eye for formal training, the Millers were notified that the school had a highly unusual backlog of puppies, the result of Mother Nature's unpredictability. For the first time ever, The Seeing Eye offered a number of puppy raisers the option of adopting their puppies or allowing the school to offer the pups to other service dog organizations.
"We talked about this as a family and discussed the fact that we were raising Eliza to be a working dog. We've raised other dogs, including Eliza's mother, Izzy. Some of them just seem to know why they are here. Eliza was like that; always very busy and very serious," recalls Miller. "So, we sent her back to The Seeing Eye about a year ago."
A few months later, the Millers received a letter and photo from an assistance dog school in Canada. In the photo, Eliza is next to an older child in a wheelchair for whom she is now retrieving items, opening doors, pushing buttons, and holding his clothes to help him dress himself.
"It just amazed us," she says. "Knowing how wonderful she was with the kids at my school, and now here she is helping this child. I am so happy for her and so proud of her. She just looks so happy in the picture that I still cry when I think about it."
Executive Office and Leadership Team
James Kutsch, President & CEO
Jennifer Lieberman, Executive Assistant
Peggy Gibbon, Director of Canine Development
Dolores Holle, V.M.D., Director of Canine Medicine & Surgery
Randall Ivens, Director of Human Resources
David Johnson, Director of Instruction & Training
Richard Liptak, Director of Facilities Management
Robert Pudlak, Director of Administration & Finance/CFO
Jean Thomas, Director of Donor & Public Relations
Board of Trustees & Officers of The Seeing Eye
Chairman Michael W. Ranger
Senior Managing Director
Diamond Castle Holdings, LLC
Vice Chairman Lewis M. Chakrin, Ph.D.
Dean, The Anisfield School of Business
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Vice Chairwoman Donna Chambers
President & CEO James A. Kutsch, Jr., Ph.D. (graduate of The Seeing Eye)
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
Treasurer Peter N. Crnkovich
Chairman/Global Healthcare Industry Investment Banking Practice
Secretary Julie H. Carroll, J.D. (graduate of The Seeing Eye)
Senior Attorney Advisor National Council on Disability
Gustavo Aguirre, VMD, Ph.D.
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Joanne M. Bicknese, DVM, MS, ELS
Director/Principal Documentation Lead Global Documentation & Dossier Management
Hugh A. D'Andrade
Vice Chairman & Chief Administrative Officer, Ret.
Anthony J. DeCarlo, VMD
Co-Founder & CEO RBVH Veterinary Healthcare Network
NJ Business Unit Managing Partner
New Mountain Capital LLC
Jamie C. Hilton (graduate of The Seeing Eye)
Manager of Field Operations, Ret.
New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
John D. Hollenbach (graduate of The Seeing Eye)
First Savings Bank of Perkasie
Margaret E.L. Howard, Ph.D.
V.P. of Administration & University Relations
Christopher P. Kauders, Esq. (graduate of The Seeing Eye)
President Pre-Trial Solutions, Inc.
S. Dillard Kirby
Executive Vice President and Executive Director
F.M. Kirby Foundation
Marvin F. Kraushar, M.D.
Retina Center of New Jersey
Herbert A. Lurie
Chairman, Global Financial Institutions, Ret.
Merrill Lynch and Co.
D. Murray MacKenzie
President and CEO, Ret.
North York General Hospital
Michael May (graduate of The Seeing Eye)
President and CEO
Sendero Group LLC
Managing Director, Ret.
Walker D. Kirby
Veterinary Recognition Awards
Each year, The Seeing Eye receives nominations from our graduates and puppy raisers for our Veterinary Recognition Awards. Veterinarians listed here have gone "above and beyond" as they provided extraordinary service and care to Seeing Eye dogs in all stages of their lives. Our puppies, our dogs-in-training, and the dogs out working with their owners all benefit greatly from the generosity of these veterinarians and of the many other veterinarians who remain unnamed.
The Animal Medical Pavilion
Roger L. Becker, D.V.M.
Independence Animal Hospital
Thomas Cusick, D.V.M.
Watertown Animal Hospital
Marc L. Levine, D.V.M.
South Orange Animal Hospital
South Orange, N.J.
Dr. Sara L. Mark
South West Veterinary Hospital
Michael Pavletic, D.V.M., DACVS
Angell Animal Medical Center
Alan Stone, D.V.M.
Northgate Veterinary Clinic
David White, D.V.M.
Texas State Veterans Home
A Half Century of Independence
In 2009, only one Seeing Eye graduate reached this significant milestone – working with a Seeing Eye dog for 50 or more years. Dorothy Casabianca joins the other alumni previously named to the Half Century Club:
Hon. Davis Duty
Louis Leotta Jr.
(For a complete list of our donors, please refer to the print version of the Annual Report or see the PDF version on our website at www.seeingeye.org/aboutus. Membership listings include gifts received between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009.)
We thank you … The school extends its sincere thanks to all our benefactors: Those who participate in the annual membership campaign, others who name us in their wills and other planned gifts, people who provide major gifts of $25,000 or more, corporate sponsors, foundations, participants in our Pennies for Puppies®/Dollars for Dogs® program, volunteers who devote precious time to our mission, customers who purchase Seeing Eye merchandise, and those who provide in-kind gifts of goods and services.
(Page contains two pie charts. One is titled "FY09 Functional Expense Categories" and illustrates three pieces labeled "Programs 81.7 percent," "Management & Administrative 8.8 percent" and "Fundraising 9.5 percent." The second is titled "FY09 Operating Revenue Sources" and illustrates four pieces labeled "Legacies 49 percent," "Contributions 27 percent," "Dividend, Interest & Trust Income 22.6%" and "Other 1.4 percent.") For a complete summary of The Seeing Eye's 2009 financial statement, please go to www.seeingeye.org/SupportUs.
Back Cover: Logos of the International Guide Dog Federation and the BBB.
The Seeing Eye President & CEO James A. Kutsch, Jr.
Editor Teresa Davenport, Senior Communications Officer
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
P.O. Box 375
Morristown, NJ 07963-0375
T: 973-539-4425 F: 973-539-0922
Visit our website: www.seeingeye.org
In Canada: c/o TH1017, P.O. Box 4283, Station A Toronto, Ontario M5W 5W6
The Seeing Eye follows the standards and guidelines recommended by the Council of U.S. Dog Guide Schools for the humane care and training of dogs to be guides, and the instruction and graduate services offered to people who are blind or visually impaired.
The Seeing Eye, Inc., does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs and other school-administered programs.
Seeing Eye® is a registered trademark for dog guides of The Seeing Eye, Inc., and is its registered service mark for training dogs as guides and instructing visually impaired individuals in their use and care.
The mission of The Seeing Eye is to enhance the dignity, independence, and self-confidence of people who are blind, through the use of specially bred and trained dog guides.
The Seeing Eye 2009 Annual Report is a publication of the Donor & Public Relations Department.
Copyright 2010 The Seeing Eye