The National Association of Guide dog Users (NAGDU), with the support of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), has applied for a grant from the Institute of Museums & Library Services (IMLS) to create a program to educate zoos about the importance of desensitizing their collections to the presence of service animals in order to allow greater access to their facilities by guide and other service dog users. Here is an announcement from the Suncoast Puppy Raisers of the Guide dog Foundation concerning the first of our efforts with lowry park Zoo in tampa, Florida.
Hi everyone, Many of us think of our puppies as our kids, so this month, we are taking our “kids” to the Zoo. Although we know it’s fun to see all the exotic animals, our visit to the zoo has a greater purpose. This time instead of focusing on exposing our puppies to the zoo animals, we are trying to expose the zoo animals to our puppies. In a captive environment, some of the animals view the dogs as a threat and can show fear or aggression towards their presence. It is for this reason that guests accompanied by a service animal have been denied access reasoning that it may harm the residential animals, even though this is in violation of the Federal Service Animal Access Law.
The National Association of Guide Dog Users along with other service animal organizations have been pushing back, no longer tolerating denial of access to all areas of zoos and theme parks that house exotic animals. In a joint effort, zoological societies are working with service animal groups to create a program educating staff about service dogs and how to introduce service dogs to residential animals.
The Suncoast Puppy Raisers have been invited by Larry Kilmer, Ph. D., Vice President of Lowry Park Zoo and Animal Conservationist, for an introductory visit for training and assessment purposes. On a previous visit, Larry accompanied Marion Gwizdala, President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users with his dog Sarge, and a separate visit with Chuck, Maddox and myself to test the waters. Although the animals were curious and cautious, they didn’t seem too alarmed. Larry wants to expand the experience with our entire group and plans to give us a more in depth tour of the park. This is a training experience for our pups and the staff at the zoo, as well as an exposure to our pups and the animals at the zoo. It should be a lot of fun as well as serious work for our pups.
Directions: Go to I275 northbound thru Tampa, take the Sligh Avenue exit, head west on Sligh, when you cross North Blvd. the entrance to the zoo will be your next right. Park in the parking lot relive your pup and we will meet in front of the main entrance. Do not be late for this meeting. We will be met by Dr. Kilmer and escorted into the zoo. If you are not there when we enter the zoo you will be on your own! Call Chuck on his cell if you have any issues or cannot find us or need different directions.