Keeping Guide Dog Teams Safe

Emergency Preparedness

The key to a guide dog team’s safety and well-being during a disaster, crisis or emergency is to be prepared! Fire, flood, severe weather, medical crisis, prolonged power outage, or other such emergencies may require anything from a brief absence from the home to long term evacuation. These situations often require different preventative measures to keep safe so be sure to consider all types of emergencies when making plans.    

To start, be certain the guide dog’s identification tags and license are always kept current. Carry a list of emergency numbers at all times and make it a practice to store the dog’s harness and leash within easy reach. In case of fire or flood, plan escape routes ahead of time and exhibit extreme caution when venturing outdoors after a major storm. Assemble a survival kit that includes supplies such as food, water, bowls, copies of medical records, waste removal & first aid supplies, dog boots, a favorite toy and blanket. In some instances, a guide dog may not be able to perform its duties so be sure to include a white cane in the emergency kit.

Many emergency shelters have a “no pets” policy and some mistakenly apply this policy to exclude service animals. Contact the local Red Cross chapter or state office of emergency management well in advance to verify that all emergency shelters have procedures in place to ensure that service animal teams will not be separated during an emergency. Separate provisions should be made for retired guide dogs since they no longer have access rights.

Pedestrian Safety

Working with a Seeing Eye dog not only improves the mobility of a blind person, but ensures that the guide dog handler moves about with a higher degree of safety.

Unfortunately, North America's pedestrian environment has become hostile to the safe travel of all persons and especially to those who are blind or visually impaired. Some of the most dangerous factors include:

  • Traffic patterns that lack predictability in terms of the time available to cross a street.
  • Multiple street intersections with complex pedestrian island configurations.
  • Turning signal arrows that allow vehicles to cross in front or in back of moving pedestrians.
  • Round-about traffic circles without signalization.
  • Blended or level curbings that are not always detectable at the entrance to the street.
  • Signaling devices that are difficult to locate and understand.

All this in addition to the growing popularity of hybrids and other quiet vehicles increases the hazards faced by blind pedestrians.

The Seeing Eye routinely serves as an advisor to traffic engineers, transportation departments, orientation and mobility specialists, and people who are blind, throughout North America. For more information, call (973) 539-4425 or email advocacy@seeingeye.org