Eligibility, the Application Process, and Acceptance
Congratulations on taking the first step in obtaining freedom and independence through a guide dog. Southeastern Guide Dogs is committed to providing you with exceptional customer service as you navigate our application process. The information below will provide you with a clear understanding of the process and provide you with a checklist of the items that we will need to expedite your acceptance into our program.
To qualify for a Southeastern guide dog, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Degree of visual impairment: You must be considered legally blind*
- Age: You must be at least 18 years old (There is no upper age limit)
- State of residence: You must reside in one of the 48 contiguous United States
- Orientation and mobility skills: You must have completed formal Orientation and Mobility training, and must be able to demonstrate your ability to travel and live independently
- Need and desire: You must have a legitimate need for assistance with traveling independently; a desire to increase and enhance your mobility and independence; and a realistic plan for use of a guide dog
- Physical ability: You must be in good physical health; have sufficient strength, flexibility and coordination to handle a guide dog; and be able to walk several blocks at a time
- Learning ability: You must have the ability to learn dog training concepts and apply them consistently, and have the cognitive abilities to work with and handle a guide dog appropriately
- Financial ability: You must have the ability to financially cover the expenses associated with the maintenance and care of a guide dog including food, monthly preventatives and veterinary expenses (approximately $900 to $1,200 per year)
- Home environment: You must be able to provide a safe, loving, healthy and stable home for a guide dog. Your home must have no more than two other dogs. All members living at your residence must agree with your decision to get a guide dog
- Travel environment: Your travel routes must be safe for a guide dog team
- History: You must have no felony convictions
If you have ever been denied service from Southeastern Guide Dogs, you will not qualify.
*Legal blindness is defined as visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best correction possible or a field of vision of 20 degrees or less.
**For children between the ages of 10 and 18, see information on our Canine Connections program.
All of our dogs and services for our students and graduates are offered completely free of charge. The school provides the dog, equipment, training, housing, and meals during your stay.
After graduation, the care of the guide dog becomes the responsibility of the graduate. The estimated cost of food, medicine, toys, and veterinary expenses is about $900 to $1,200 per year.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
Prospective students may apply for a guide dog using our online or printable application. Please review all of the information below before completing your application, including familiarizing yourself with the application components and process.
The online application takes about one hour to complete. During the online application process, at any time the user may click the “Save and continue later” button located at the top of each page. Click here for the online application
Prospective students may download a printable application to complete and submit through standard mail. For a printable application, select either PDF or Microsoft Word format.
If you are a returning Southeastern Guide Dogs graduate applying for a successor dog, click here.
The Southeastern Guide Dogs Admission Committee needs the following information to process your application. The complete application includes these components:
- General application for a guide dog
- Primary care physician’s name and contact information (required)
- Blind Services or Commission Counselor name and contact information (if applicable)
- Orientation and Mobility instructor name and contact information (required)
- Employer’s name and contact information (if applicable)
- Three personal references (required)
- Release of indemnification form (required)
- Consent form (required)
At the discretion of the Director of Training, additional information or materials may be requested by a Southeastern Guide Dog representative at a later time.
The Application Process:
In addition to completing either the online or printed and mailed applications, all applicants will be required to:
- Undergo a pre-admission phone interview with Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Director of Admissions and Student Services
- Undergo a criminal background check (applicants who have been convicted of a felony will not qualify for our services)
- Undergo a pre-admission home evaluation to be conducted by a Southeastern Guide Dogs staff member, a certified field representative
Upon receipt of the fully completed application and after the in-home interview, the applicant’s application is evaluated by a three-person Admission Committee comprised of our Director of Admissions and Student Services, Director of Training, and one additional training department member.
Once the committee has formally accepted the applicant to the program, the admissions manager will notify the applicant and discuss potential class opportunities. Because each dog is hand-picked to match an individual applicant, the applicant’s class schedule is wholly determined by the age, readiness, and suitability of available dogs. Accepted applicants are asked to exercise patience and flexibility, because our ongoing success and our graduates’ satisfaction depend on making a suitable match.
The application process can take up to two months, and there is a small waiting list. Once accepted, it may take from six months to a year to be matched with an available, suitable dog. Meanwhile, please keep the school informed of any changes to your contact information so we can notify you. Send contact and information changes by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (800) 944-3647 extension 117.
With a physician’s approval, and on an individually determined basis, Southeastern Guide Dogs can provide specialized guide dog training for individuals with special needs. As long as the applicant is physically able to care for a dog, our committee will consider all applications on a case-by-case basis. If there is a way to make it work and our committee approves the application, the trainers select a specific dog and adapt the training regimen to accommodate special needs. For example, dogs are trained with hand signals instead of voice commands for the hearing impaired. Trainers use different types of harnesses to adapt to human balance issues.
Please contact Susan Wilburn at email@example.com or by calling (800) 944-3647 extension 117 for more information on guide dogs for applicants with special needs.