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Dogs for the Disabled forges new links

Dogs for the Disabled has strengthened its ties with Spanish Assistance Dog Programme, The Bocalan Foundation, in a move which will bring benefits to Assistance Dogs partnerships in both countries and further afield.

Peter Gorbing, chief executive of Dogs for the Disabled and President of Assistance Dogs International (the umbrella body representing over 160 assistance dog programmes worldwide) visited the Bocalan Foundation in Barcelona to deliver a lecture on the work of Dogs for the Disabled. As part of the trip, Mr Gorbing was also invited to take part in an airline simulation exercise involving the safe evacuation of assistance dogs, organised by Speed Air in association with the Spanish airline Iberia and the Catalan Government.

The Bocalan Foundation is Spain's leading assistance dog organisation, and like Dogs for the Disabled trains Assistance Dogs for physically disabled children and adults. The Foundation also offers Animal Assisted Therapy to children with Autism – something that Dogs for the Disabled is keen to learn more about as it develops its own programme training assistance dogs for children with autism.

Improving access for disabled people with assistance dogs also remains a key issue for all assistance dog programmes. With new EU Regulations on the rights of disabled persons travelling by air coming into force in July 2008, disabled people with assistance dogs will have to be catered for by airports and airlines across Europe. This is a significant step forward which is welcomed by all assistance dog organisations across Europe.

Both organisations have made a commitment to continue to work together more closely in the future with further areas of work and development already identified which will bring wider benefits to all assistance dog partnerships.