BOOKS: Partners In Independence

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:

Partners In Independence:
A Success Story of Dogs and the Disabled
by Ed & Toni Eames
Barkleigh Productions, Inc.
(6 State Road #113, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050), 2nd edition 2004,
revised. 232 pages, paperback. $19.95.]

Ed and Toni Eames, of Fresno, California, are blind people
who have spent half a lifetime trying to make the world a better
place for disabled people who rely upon service dogs.
Partners In Independence describes what life is like for
people who cannot see or have only limited vision, and how guide dogs
transform their lives. Ed and Toni Eames describe the lives of guide
dogs, how they are bred and raised, how they are trained, how they
are paired with their human companions, and what happens when either
partner, human or canine, dies.
The first guide dog school in the U.S., The Seeing Eye, was
established in 1929, inspired by work done in Germany with blinded
World War I veterans. Initially the German Shepherd dog was the dog
of choice for guide work, but most trained guides today are
Labradors and golden retrievers.

Disabled Americans who use service dogs have some legislative
protection since the1990 passage of the Americans with Dis-abilities
Act. There is no comparable legislation in Europe or Asia. The
International Association of Assistant Dog Partners was recently
formed to help service dog users cope with continuing discrimination
and other problems resulting from lack of public understanding of the
roles and training of service dogs.
As animal advocates who have fought our own court battles
against arrogant and indifferent bureaucracy, we could easily
identify with many of the struggles that Ed and Toni Eames recount.
“Laws,” they believe, can only establish the context within
which disabled people will develop their own movement and empower
themselves.”
While Ed and Teri Eames do not delve deeply into the politics
and economics of advocacy for the disabled, a relevant parallel to
animal protection has involved the ongoing struggle of grassroots
activists to overcome the policies and practices of service dog
organizations which have amassed reserve funds far in excess of their
needs, continue aggressive fundraising, and often do not respond to
the actual concerns of the people they purport to serve.
Spot-checking the ratios of assets to expenses at nine
leading U.S. service dog charities, ANIMAL PEOPLE found that the
least wealthy had assets of 2.6 times its annual budget. The two
most wealthy, each worth more than $230 million, had assets of 8.6
and 11.6 times their annual budgets.
Cumulatively, these nine charities had annual expenses of
$72.5 million, with $558.4 million in assets: 7.7 times more.
Ratios that lopsided are almost unheard of in humane work,
yet animal defenders are often up against comparably entrenched
institutions. Since animals cannot “develop their own movement and
empower themselves,” it is up to us to do it for them.
–Chris Mercer & Beverley Pervan

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