Coronavirus Planning and Precautionary Measure Update Page

Your well-being and safety are important to us. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and want you to know that we’re here to support our community during this time.

As always, you can connect with our Consumer Services Team if you have any questions about how the evolving situation could impact you and our program. We’ll be updating the information on this page frequently.  At extraordinary moments like this, we have been heartened by the service dog community who are there to support one another.  

If you have a question or need support for your working dog, puppy, or temporarily housed dog, contact us at:

Guide Dog Foundation
1-631-930-9000
Toll-free:1-800-548-4337 (within the US)
info@guidedog.org

America's VetDogs
1-631-930-9090
Toll-free: 1-866-838-3647 
info@VetDogs.org

Phased Re-Opening Plans


June 23, 2020

We hope you and your family and friends are safe and in good health.
 
As we continue to navigate through these challenging times, the team at the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs remains committed to our missions to train and place assistance dogs with individuals with disabilities. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve adjusted our operations in accordance with current medical practices. These have ranged from updated safety protocols to changes in our physical plant to ensure the continued safety and good health of our staff, dogs, and constituents. We were extremely gratified by the way our volunteer community has stepped up in this crisis. Volunteers took in more than 200 dogs and puppies, thereby allowing us to keep staff to a minimum. 
 
Now, after measured thought and planning, we will begin to phase back into the workplace. Our first step will be to bring our guide dog instructors back to our campus, along with a limited rotation of other small teams of essential employees who assist in our breeding, canine care, and puppy programs. All of our decisions have been and will continue to be based on the health and safety of our constituencies. 
 
Our phased approach will look like this: 
 
Facilities:

  • Our professional cleaning team will continue to perform nightly cleaning and weekly hospital-grade cleaning in all high-touch areas as well as the general facility.
  • Staff will rotate in on opposing shifts to keep in-person interaction to a minimum.
  • Every staff member and volunteer are required to wear a mask on campus.
  • Disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) will be available for all staff including masks, gowns, hand sanitizer. Social distancing guidelines and reminders will also be on display. 
  • Plexiglass barriers have been installed in various office spaces to reduce the potential of the coronavirus spreading through shared air.
  • The campus will remain closed to visitors until further notice.

Training & Client Placement:

  • Training vehicles will receive periodic hospital-grade deep cleaning.
  • Guide dog mobility instructors will begin work from campus and will resume off-campus work with in-for-training dogs.
  • Guide dog home placements and training are tentatively planned to start by late summer. (Additional details on upcoming placements will be sent out to active and accepted applicants over the next several weeks.)
  • Service dog instructors will continue to work their in-for-training dogs from their homes and will use on-campus facilities only when needed.
  • On-campus service dog classes are tentatively planned to resume in late summer. (Additional details on upcoming placements will be sent out to active and accepted applicants over the next several weeks.)

Canine Care:

  • Kennel staff, trainers, and veterinary staff will wear masks, gowns, and gloves when needed.
  • Veterinary visits for program dogs will be available via drop-off.
  • We will allow a limited number of volunteers on campus who are a part of our essential support teams.

Puppy Team:

  • The puppy team will continue to support our dedicated group of volunteer puppy raisers through virtual support.
  • In-person puppy classes will resume in small groups with all attendees required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.
  • All puppy classes will be held outdoors with one person per dog allowed in attendance.
  • We will allow raisers to continue with their public socialization if the raiser is comfortable to do so.

For the staff working from home, we will continue to develop productive ways to communicate and support our mission: 

  • With most states re-opening, we will cautiously begin providing in-person support to our graduate community. Consumer Services will continue to be a hybrid of remote and in-person visits based on the situation.
  • The development team continues to develop creative ways raise money through a variety of fundraising campaigns.
  • The marketing & communications team will work to maintain our high level of awareness through public relations efforts and social media and will continue to provide key content to assist with remote training and graduate support.

Through all of this, we have remained mindful of our missions and how we can best fulfill them. As to be expected, all of our plans are subject to change based on conditions throughout the country. We will continue to do everything we can to effectively communicate with and support our community, and we are truly thankful for all of your support as we work through these uncertain times. 

Stay well.

Message from President and CEO John Miller

April 14, 2020

CARES Act Guide


April 10, 2020
Dear friends, 

As we navigate through these difficult times, we are heartened to find in ourselves and our fellow citizens a strengthened desire to look out for others. The demand for our services are at a record high, and we can’t put a halt to our mission to provide guide and service dogs that provide independence and mobility to people with disabilities.

We'd like to help guide you through some key provisions of the new CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, which is designed to help individuals, businesses, and nonprofits that are facing economic hardship because of the current crisis.   

  • The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your IRA for 2020 has been suspended. This suspension also applies to your initial RMD if you turned 70 1/2last year and didn’t take that initial distribution prior to April 1.  The good news is, you are still able to make a charitable gift from your IRA if you are 70 1/2 or older.

  • The second provision in the CARES ACT applies to all taxpayers. You are now able to take a charitable deduction up to $300 even if you take the standard deduction and do not itemize.
  • Finally, the CARES Act raises the annual limit on cash gifts for those who itemize their taxes from 60% to 100% of their adjusted gross income (ADI) for 2020.  

Thank you for your continued support of the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs. As we deal with the anxiety and isolation of the current times, please keep in mind how these issues are magnified for veterans with PTSD waiting for their service dogs or blind individuals waiting to train with their guide dogs.

Your gift, no matter the size, will help us remain focused on our mission: to help these individuals live without boundaries. To discuss how your gift can change a life, especially now, please contact Jennifer Gisler at 516-404-0812 or Jennifer.Gisler@GuideDog.org.

Stay home, stay inside and stay healthy.  

Face Covering Information


April 9, 2020 
The Centers for Disease Control has recently updated its recommendations on the use of cloth face coverings as a means to slow the spread of COVID 19 among the public.  We at the Foundation and America's VetDogs will be supporting this effort and working to protect your health and the health of our community through an update to our workplace policy.

For the protection of yourself and others, the following on-campus practices will go into effect immediately:

Mandatory: you must wear a mask when there is another person within the same room or work space with you.  Please remember to continue maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from other people even when you are wearing a mask.  During the limited activities during which you might have to move more closely together (for example, assisting with some veterinary procedures), our staff veterinarians or canine care supervisors will advise you on body positioning to maintain maximum safety.

Mandatory: you must wear a mask when answering the door or greeting a visitor to our campus. 

Recommended: Please keep in mind that the outward facing surface of a face mask is considered a contaminated surface.  The more often that you touch your mask or take it off and put it back on throughout the day, the greater the likelihood that you may inadvertently contaminate your hands or face.  We strongly encourage you to consider keeping your mask on for as long as possible once you have placed it on.  

Mandatory: When handling a dog for grooming, or veterinary procedures, please wear gloves and a lab coat, grooming apron, surgical robe, or other protective gear provided by the Foundation.  We are expecting a new delivery of lab coats early next week and we have also ordered several sets of lightweight rain gear which can be used for this purpose.

Recommended: The American Veterinary Medical Association and The Animal Medical Center, among other experts, inform us that the there is no evidence that dogs or cats are likely to transfer COVID 19 from their skin or hair coat to a human.  However, our knowledge of COVID 19 is still incomplete and we strongly encourage you to add goggles to your mask, gloves, and gown/apron when bathing a dog for maximum safety.

Since mask use is something that is new for us here in the United States, here are two handy information sheets that will also be available in hard copy on campus:

CDC's Use of Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID 19

How NOT to Wear a Face Mask

We are humbled every day when we see the dedication with which our staff and volunteers are stepping up to provide necessary care for our dogs during a most extraordinary moment in time. 

If you have a question or need support for your working dog, puppy, or temporarily housed dog, contact us at:

Guide Dog Foundation
1-631-930-9000
Toll-free:1-800-548-4337 (within the US)
info@guidedog.org

America's VetDogs
1-631-930-9090
Toll-free: 1-866-VETDOGS (838-3647)
info@VetDogs.org

Thank you for your support.

Program Dog and Puppy Update


March 25, 2020 
Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this message finds you and your families healthy and well. At the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, we have been working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of the dogs and puppies in our care, our students and graduates, our volunteers, and our staff. Our leadership team has been meeting daily to evaluate and adjust our response to the ever-changing landscape brought on by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis.

As the seriousness of the situation evolved, our most recent guide dog class was sent home early. They were nearly finished with their training, so their new guide dogs were able to accompany them.

In accordance with New York State expectations and to do our part, we minimized the on-campus staff to the fullest extent possible while still providing care for our dogs. Staff who can work remotely are doing so, and we remain available to respond to inquiries from our graduates, donors, and volunteers.

Our Canine Care, Volunteer Service, and Training Teams have been working around the clock to find temporary homes for our puppies and dogs, and we have been amazed by the immediate response and support of our volunteers. One week ago, we had over 280 puppies and dogs in our kennels and nursery – today, only 7 adult dogs and 15 newborn puppies remain on campus, allowing us to keep staff to a minimum.

The program dogs in our kennels have also been relocated to foster homes. Dogs undergoing their formal guide or service dog training are living with their trainers so that they may continue working in anticipation for the day when we can resume classes and normal business operations. The puppies in our prison puppy program have also found new homes for the time being to ensure their health and safety.

The Consumer Services team and Field Service Representatives will continue to support our graduate community through virtual meeting tools, and will continue to be available via phone, email, and online whenever needed for anyone requesting assistance with their guide or service dog.

I recognize that we are facing unprecedented times, but I am confident that the same spirit that unites us as Americans will see us through this. To help us meet the current challenges, please consider making a donation so that we can ensure that the puppies and dogs in foster homes with our volunteers and staff remain healthy and cared for. It costs about $25 per day to provide food, shelter and around the clock care for one of our program dogs. Please consider a gift of $25 for one day or $100 for other medical needs such as vaccinations, so that we may continue to fulfill our mission.

I have been incredibly impressed by the collective spirit and passion our team - volunteers, donors, and staff – displays every day. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will take necessary measures to ensure the well-being of our community.

Thank you for your support.

John Miller
President & CEO
Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs

Animal Health


April 6, 2020
At present, there is still no evidence that pets can spread COVID 19 to people and there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets (although we should still exercise caution when handling a dog of unknown exposure status since this is still a developing situation).

We should continue to engage in good hygiene when interacting with our animals, and scientists are still working to understand more about exactly how this disease interacts with the animal world.  

Here are some good reference sites if you want to read more:

American Veterinary Medical Association

CDC COVID-19 and Animals

Worms and Germs: Tiger with COVID-19

Shelter Intake Recommendations for Pets from Households with a COVID-19 Positive Human
March 24, 2020 
Transmission of COVID-19 by livestock and pets

Although data is still limited, we are not aware of any reports worldwide of any animal getting sick after exposure to a human case, despite the large outbreak in humans. To date, there have been no reports of livestock being infected or sick with COVID-19 virus anywhere.

There are still many unknowns and scientists are trying to understand if and how it affects animals. There have been reports of two dogs in Hong Kong testing positive for COVID-19 viral material following exposure to a human COVID-19 case. Both of the dogs did not show any signs of being sick, and according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there is no evidence that pets play a role in transmitting the disease to humans.

Learn More

Campus and Program Update


March 18, 2020 
We hope this message finds you and your families well. The leadership team continues to meet on a daily basis to monitor, respond and adjust to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The health and safety of our employees, clients, donors, volunteers and dogs are our primary concern.  

In addition to previously communicated adjustments, as of March 18, 2020, we have enacted the following: 

Campus Updates: 

  • We have contracted for weekly hospital grade cleaning from an external vendor in all buildings. 
  • We are implementing a plan to work from home for staff whose positions allow. This plan will be evaluated on a weekly basis. 
  • All travel has been suspended except for emergency situations. 
  • We are in the process of making plans for essential services only, should there be a mandated shutdown. (Presently, Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA is closed due to a government order).

Program Updates: 

  • Guide and service dog training has continued from campus. Instructors will avoid crowded areas and buildings and maintain appropriate social separation. 
  • We have consolidated all adult dogs into the Training Center kennels for easier management. 
  • We have suspended all incoming boarding of dogs, except for emergencies and are working to clear out current dogs. 
  • Our Field Service Reps continue to extend outreach to our graduate community and provide support for emergencies.

Puppy Department: 

  • We have placed all puppies 8-weeks and older in temporary volunteer homes. 
  • We have suspended all puppy raising group club meetings and will maintain and open channel of communication along with providing virtual support. 
  • We are in the process of removing all dogs from our prison puppy program. Prison Puppy Advisers will maintain virtual support for all prison dogs. 

We are incredibly impressed by the collective spirit and passion that our team and community continues to display every day in the face of challenging and unprecedented times. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take necessary measures to ensure the well-being of our community.
 
Thank you for your continued efforts during this time and please stay safe!

Volunteer Services Update


March 17, 2020
As we navigate the rapidly changing circumstances of the current COVID-19 pandemic, our top priorities remain the safety and health of our people and the dogs in our care.

In order to support nationwide efforts to increase social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19 within our communities, we are suspending all but one on-campus volunteer activities effective immediately.  Puppy bather volunteers may still continue to visit our boarding kennel by appointment, with the restriction that only one individual (or 2 members of the same household) may attend in a given time slot.  If you are a puppy bather and would like to continue your work with our pups, please contact Jaclyn DiCarlo to schedule an appointment.

All other on-campus volunteer activities will be suspended until further notice.

We are committed to continue support for our puppy raising, breeder caretaker, and short term foster volunteer communities, largely through remote means such as telephone, email, and video conference.  In person visits will be considered on a case by case basis, and we ask you to contact your key puppy or breeding representative if you have an urgent request for an in-person consultation.

We are forever grateful for the caring volunteers who have shown us so much support. For the time being we want you all to stay home, stay safe, and keep well so that we can continue our work together when life goes back to normal.
 
Thank you.

Campus Update


March 12, 2020
As a follow up to the COVID-19 information we previously distributed, we wanted to let you know that we are continuing to monitor the situation and planning for what may occur in the coming weeks. 

The Leadership team has been meeting regularly to assess developments.  The health and safety of our staff, graduates and volunteers is paramount and as such we wanted to share the following updates and will continue to update you as plans change and develop.

As of today, March 12, 2020, we have made the following operational adjustments:

  • We have increased the cleaning schedule on touch points. Additionally we have contracted for hospital grade cleaning from a third party vendor.
  • Travel has been limited to essential travel only – to be approved by department heads.
  • We have postponed classes until April 27th and will continue to monitor the situation for future classes.
  • Training in NYC is suspended.
  • Increased supplies – cleaning, medical, dog food.
  • Adjusted puppy raising groups to be 5 or less.
  • Puppy groups have been instructed to avoid crowded and highly populated areas. 
  • Added a container of disinfectant wipes in each vehicle for wipe down of all vehicles daily. 
  • Celebration Saturday scheduled for March 14, 2020 has been restructured to a virtual event.
  • We are working with our various national puppy raising groups, including groups within our universities and prison program, on all planning and care.  
  • We have begun to limit outside traffic to the campus to be mindful of social distancing.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will continue to take necessary measures to ensure the well-being of our staff, volunteers and program graduates. As always, we ask that you please follow everyday preventative actions which include:

  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of in a “no touch” wastebasket.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Washing hands with soap and water OFTEN and for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • If you are sick, stay home.  

Thank you all for your cooperation and understanding.

Update for Program Graduates                   Update for Program Applicants

Information and Guidance


March 5, 2020

At the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, we have been actively monitoring COVID-19 (coronavirus) and are providing the informational links below for educational guidance and precautionary steps you can take as an individual.  

Our current work is focused in three main areas:  

Protect yourself and others

  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the New York State Department of Health have provided clear recommendations that we as individuals can follow to reduce or prevent the spread of COVID-19. In order to provide the best level of protection for yourself and others, please engage in the following practices:
    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent the spread of disease, including COVID-19. Washing your hands with warm or cold water is equally effective, according to the CDC.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (or if necessary cough into your elbow). Dispose of the tissue immediately after use and wash your hands.
  4. Regularly disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched by people (time clocks, light switches, door knobs, etc.)

We have increased the number of disinfectant wipe packets and hand sanitizers available around campus. We appreciate your efforts to use these products responsibly so that we maintain an adequate supply to meet our needs through the upcoming weeks.

As of today, both the CDC and WHO have reported that there is no evidence that companion animals such as dogs and cats can act as a source of infection for COVID-19.  We will continue to monitor new information as it arises. 

It is important to remember that for our own general health and the health of our dogs, we should wash our hands frequently, especially after handling, feeding, or cleaning up after our dogs.

If you would like to follow the latest news about the impact of COVID-19 on companion animals, here are some links to trustworthy sources of up-to-date information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention FAQ: COVID-19 and Animals 
World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Pets, Healthy People (general information about preventing the spread of disease from pets to people)
New Yorkers can call the state hotline at 1-888-364-3065, where experts can answer questions regarding coronavirus.


Preparation for possible impact

Given the public health risk of the virus and the limited information available as the experts continue to develop recommendations and guidelines, we are doing our best to plan for some changes that might occur in the near future. Our current activities include:

  • Program and facilities managers are ensuring that we have an adequate supply of essentials such as cleaning supplies, paper goods, dog food, and medications in the event of a short-term supply chain disruption (for example, if multiple people from one of our local distributors are out sick).
  • We are investigating potential modifications to our operations and are continually assessing the situation.
  • We are in communication with colleagues within the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International to share resources, information, and responses that will best serve our consumers and other stakeholders.

Emergency response

While we are all hopeful that we can minimize impacts of COVID-19 on our campus, we are also engaged in the following preparations:

  • We are seeking guidance from the CDC, WHO, and the NYS Department of Health on current standards and workplace guidance for COVID-19.
  • We are actively communicating with the NYS Department of Health to understand our obligations and required actions in the event that a guest staying at our student residence is diagnosed with COVID-19.

News about the spread of any new disease can be upsetting, especially when so much remains unknown.  Our best advice is to remain calm. Seek out reputable sources of information, and do not pass along rumors or unconfirmed information on social media or among your family, friends, or colleagues. As new information becomes available, we will be sure to provide updates when they are available to you and our community.