GUIDE Dogs in Leamington is facing its ‘worst ever’ shortage of volunteers.
The sight loss charity says it desperately needs people to come forward and provide homes for its guide dog mums as volunteer numbers have never been so low.
The shortage has not been put down to the cost-of-living crisis, as all expenses are paid for by the charity, but could instead be a result of the time commitment involved.
‘Breeding dog holder’ volunteers have a guide dog mum-to-be living with them full-time.
The volunteers look after these doggy mums like any other pet dog, and, when the time is right, help them to give birth at home to the next generation of guide dogs.
They can then enjoy the company of a litter of guide dog pups for around seven weeks, before they move out to start the early stages of their training.
To qualify to volunteer, people need to live within an hour’s drive of the charity’s breeding site just outside Leamington.
Guide dogs spokesperson Kelly Newton said: “We’re currently experiencing the worst shortage of homes for our guide dog mums that we’ve ever had to face.
“Despite appealing all year for volunteers to come forward, we’ve still not found enough people who’re able to provide a loving home to one of our guide dog mums.
“Giving a home to one of our mums is a great way to have a dog to live with you, without the usual costs involved.
“One of the common things that can be a challenge for people looking to do this volunteering role is that we ask volunteers to look after our puppies at home for around seven weeks after they are born, before they move to our National Centre to start their guide dog journey.
“We appreciate that this is a time commitment, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to see our pups develop during their first few weeks.”
Jane Kempton, from Harbury, has been a volunteer breeding dog holder for five years.
Abbey, the guide dog mum she cares for, is a Labrador, and has just had her second litter of puppies.
Jane said: “Abbey came to me when she was just seven weeks old because I was her volunteer puppy raiser.
“I had a wonderful year raising her and when she got selected to be part of the breeding programme, it was a great opportunity for me to change my volunteering role and become a breeding dog holder and keep Abbey living with me.
“Abbey had eight puppies in her first litter, two years ago, and those dogs are now just reaching the stage where they will become guide dogs – it is very exciting to hear about their progress.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer should contact Verity O’Donnell at [email protected] or call 0800 781 1444.