More About Bringing Our animals to the zoo

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.

May 2015.pdf

Puppy Saturday Meeting
Date: May 9, 2015
Where: Lowry Park Zoo
1101 W. Sligh Ave. Tampa, FL
Time: 10:00 – 12:00pm
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.


About harnessup

The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading membership organization for blind people who use guide dogs. NAGDU is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of guide dog users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users and to support their work, you can visit their website at HTTP://WWW.NAGDU.ORG Or send an email message to Info@NAGDU.ORG
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2 Responses to More About Bringing Our animals to the zoo

  1. I think that getting zoo animals used to pets is a good idea. I’ve been desensitizing my dog to other animals of late. We take her to the park 3 times a week so she can interact with other dogs and people. Thankfully, our hard work has been paying off. Are all animals naturally scared of each other?

    • harnessup says:

      It is my understanding that not all animals are afraid of other animals. The challenge we face with service dogs in zoos is that the animals are wild animals and their imprinting is to see a dog as either predator or prey. Our goal with this project is to teach other zoos how to desensitize their collections to the presence of a dog so that disabled individuals accompanied by service dogs can have the most optimal experience possible. it is interesting that we have received resistance from both zoos and guide dog training programs about why we would even want to consider such a thing. our experience is demonstrating that desensitization is not only possible but beneficial for both the service dogs and the zoo animals.

      Also, I see your URL seems to be from a zoo. If this is correct, please visit our website, find my telephone number, and give me a call.

      Marion Gwizdala, President

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