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Tuesday, Mar 5, 2024

Dog Nonprofits in Friendly Merger

Two service-dog nonprofits – Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar and Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs in San Diego – have announced a merger, effective in early January. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Guide Dogs of America matches people who are blind or visually impaired with trained guide dogs. Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs provides dogs for people with all kinds of disabilities, from wounded veterans to children with autism. It also has programs for hospitals and prisons, where service dogs are used for intervention, rehabilitation and therapy. The Tender Loving Canines organization will retain its name and offices in San Diego. It will become a division of Guide Dogs of America, which has a 7.5-acre headquarters campus at 13445 Glenoaks Blvd. in Sylmar. “(Tender Loving Canines) shares our goal to transform the lives of people through partnerships with highly trained assistance dogs,” said Guide Dogs President Russell Gittlen in a statement. “This merger will allow us to put more dogs into the hands of people who need them – which is our ultimate mission.” According to Guide Dogs Outreach Coordinator Zack Gittlen, the merger isn’t rooted in financial need. Rather, it’s about increasing the odds that dogs born at the Guide Dogs facility that aren’t capable of guide work will have the opportunity to enter some kind of service work. “We have a lot of dogs that were born to be guide dogs that don’t make our program,” Gittlen told the Business Journal. “Say a dog has something like a sniffing issue. Somebody that’s blind can’t manage that very well, but somebody that’s sighted that maybe has (post-traumatic stress disorder) or autism can manage that issue, so the dog could go into another line of work.” Legally, service dogs are defined as animals individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. There is a plethora of specialties, including seeing eye dogs, PTSD dogs, mobility dogs for people in wheelchairs, and dogs for people with autism. “Service animals are working animals, not pets,” according to guidelines from the Department of Justice. “The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals.” While the merger of Guide Dogs of America and Loving Canines wasn’t about money, it will allow a sharing of resources between the nonprofits. “Both of us recognized it would be a mutually beneficial relationship,” Zack Gittlen said. “(Tender Loving Canines) never had a campus. They don’t have the type of funding that we have, and they don’t have the resources that we have. We have the bandwidth to open our arms and take them in and grow their programs.”

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