Disabled New Zealanders face five-year wait for life-changing service dog

Disabled New Zealanders face five-year wait for life-changing service dog
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People with severe disabilities across the country are waiting five years or more for access to a service dog that would give them independence and provide them with crucial daily help.

Assistance Dogs NZ Trust (ADNZT) is calling on the New Zealand public to help reduce this long wait time and bring this much needed solution to the 47 children and families on their waiting list, launching their Week of call.

Assistance Dogs NZ Trust was founded in 2008 to provide specialized public access dogs to customers with various disabilities. They now serve more than 40 clients across New Zealand, with a waiting list that exceeds their current capacity.

Although they offer support for any disability, they found that in particular, there was nowhere for people with disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy to access a public access dog. 90% of their clients are now children with autism.

Recent research has shown that people with a service dog have significantly better psychosocial health, which means better emotional, social, and work / school functioning, compared to those with similar disabilities without a dog. Additionally, dogs often impact their owner in ways that go beyond what they are directly trained to do.[1]

The wait list of five years and more boils down to a lack of resources; the Trust receives no government funding and is funded only by generous donations, grants and individual donors.

Assistance Dogs NZ Trust President Sinaed Horgan explains that “if we can increase our funding, we can eventually consider recruiting more dog trainers, so that we can raise more puppies and train more dogs to place and reduce this waiting list.

“Partly the waiting list is five years because we don’t have a limit for the list; if a service dog is a great fit for a person with a disability, we want to make sure they are on the list. “

The cost of training and placing an assistance dog is $ 75,000, which is the Assistance Dogs NZ Trust fundraising goal for this call. Each client is invited to raise $ 20,000 for their dog, which they often achieve through creative fundraising efforts while also covering large medical bills and full or part-time care.

The Opie family, whose daughter Sienna has a service dog named Rocco, saw their investment quickly repaid based on the development and progress Sienna has made since Rocco joined their family just over a year ago. .

Sienna has 15Q24 micro-deletion syndrome and is the only person in New Zealand with the disease, one of several hundred cases worldwide. Sienna’s genetic deletion is accompanied by seizures, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and overall developmental delay.

Despite having undergone countless surgeries in the first five years of her life due to the medical complications the syndrome caused, Sienna only has a lung condition and a feeding tube left. The biggest challenges they now face are behavior and development, and this is where Rocco has the most impact.

The Opies went on the waiting list when Sienna was two, and five years later Rocco was trained and placed with them.

“In our opinion, it’s best to invest early in treating children, both to ease more intensive treatment later and to quickly improve critical developmental goals,” says Tim Opie.

“Sometimes we wonder if Sienna could have gotten Rocco earlier, how much more would she have progressed?” We see Rocco as an essential part of its overall health treatment, in addition to drugs and other well-known therapies, ”adds Kirstin Opie.

Rocco attends all of Sienna’s hospital appointments and therapy, helping her cope with the anxiety that accompanies such environments. With Rocco, she can now get to public places like malls and cafes without feeling overwhelmed or frozen, and she has grown in her independence and personal responsibility.

To Sienna’s parents, they know that Rocco is not only her best friend and source of encouragement, but also supports her daily needs and ensures her personal safety.

Assistance Dogs NZ Trust’s 2020 Appeal Week runs from October 1-4, calling for any donation you can make with street collectors in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as the opportunity to donate. an online donation.

[1] Kerri E. Rodriguez et al. The effects of assistance dogs on the psychosocial health and well-being of people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses, Handicap et réadaptation (2019). DOI: 10.1080 / 09638288.2018.1524520. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-02-dogs-benefit-well-being-handlers.html

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