CEO of Guide Dog Foundation and America’s Vetdogs
January 2019’s CEO Brief features John Miller, CEO, Guide Dog Foundation and America’s Vetdogs, not-for-profit organizations specializing in providing no-cost service dogs to the blind and veterans. In 2018, Guide Dog Foundation was a finalist of HIA-LI’s 24th Annual Business Achievement Awards in the category of Not-For-Profit.
Tell us about how you/your company started.
In 1946, after World War II, five community leaders founded a guide dog school in metropolitan New York to provide guide dogs at no charge for blind or visually impaired students, including veterans who had returned from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. They located a respected dog trainer, and hired him to develop a method of guide dog training. That year they graduated their first two guide dog students. The original office was located in Forest Hills, Queens. In the late 1940s, the present Smithtown, N.Y., property was purchased and in 1949 the name was changed to Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. In 2003, the Guide Dog Foundation recognized the need for an assistance dog program for veterans that would incorporate guide dogs, service dogs, and innovative training techniques. America’s VetDogs was created and incorporated to give veterans easy access to the best services possible to improve their lives.
What was a turning point for you/your company?
In 2003, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind recognized the need for an assistance dog program for veterans that would incorporate guide dogs, service dogs, and innovative training techniques. America’s VetDogs was created and incorporated to give veterans easy access to the best services possible to improve their lives. In 2008, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind became the first assistance dog school in the United States to be accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International, the two international bodies that certify guide and service dog schools, respectively. In 2013, America’s VetDogs became the second assistance dog school in the United States to be accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International; the Guide Dog Foundation was the first.
What is your philosophy at Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs?
For over seven decades the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs have provided greater independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship – free of charge – through our accredited guide and service dog training program. With a guide or service dog, people who are blind, have low vision, or have other special needs, gain a newfound sense of freedom and embrace their increased independence to life on their own terms, one without boundaries. We are passionate and committed to providing our students and graduates with the highest form of freedom there is – the freedom to experience the world around them in any way they choose. It is our guiding principle.
Tell us about your company’s profile today.
Individuals with physical disabilities often experience isolation because of limited mobility options. The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs offers innovative ideas and solutions to ensure those who are blind or visually impaired, or who have disabilities other than blindness, experience renewed independence and enhanced mobility. Thanks to the placement of highly skilled guide and service dogs, individuals with disabilities can become fully engaged in the workforce and recognized as equal and independent participants in society, prepared to keep pace with changing times and needs. GDF and AVD not only offers exceptional programs, we advocate on behalf of the visually impaired community. For over 75 years, the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs have trained and placed highly skilled guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship. Our services are provided completely free of charge to clients from across all of North America.
What opportunities do you see in the future?
We seek to be the recognized leader in advocacy, education and the provision of assistance dogs, programs, and services that improve the quality of life for people with special needs. We will accomplish this through our knowledge and expertise supported by sustainable financial resources. Through our ongoing efforts we’ll push for equal accessibility to all people with all abilities. Our organization is poised to continue this role to ensure its consumers ongoing equality, independence and success while our organization maintains a personalized and family atmosphere.