Bus Users helps guide dog puppies get on-bus training

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Stagecoach North East was one of the first operators to get involved

Bus Users, Guide Dogs and bus operators across England have joined forces to provide on-bus training for guide dogs during the pandemic.

Lockdown and reduced services have meant that lots of guide dog puppies have been missing out on vital training opportunities on board buses. Bus Users has been able to connect Guide Dogs with operators across the UK, helping to arrange sessions for the puppies and their trainers in the safety of their depots.

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Blind and partially-sighted people are reliant on public transport, so it is critical their assistance dogs become accustomed with bus travel from early age. As well as learning how to board and disembark safely, they need to know when to stop so their owners can purchase tickets or show passes, and how to guide their owners to a seat.

Work began with Stagecoach North East and First in South Yorkshire, the Midlands and the South West. Visits are also being arranged along the South Coast and across the Home Counties.

Dawn Badminton-Capps, Director of Bus Users England, commented: “With so many travel restrictions in place, these puppies were missing out on a vital part of their training. Fully trained assistance dogs make it possible for thousands of people to access public transport, ensuring they can lead full and independent lives.”

One of the first operators to respond was Stagecoach North East at its depot in Walkergate. The division’s Managing Director, Steve Walker, said: “We know just how vital bus services are to our passengers. We are always willing to help organisations and communities learn how to access our services and make full use of the opportunities that bus travel can provide.”

Janet Champion of Guide Dogs added: “The support from Bus Users and operators in the North East has been fantastic and we are already expanding this work across the rest of the country.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year, but opportunities like this help to give our puppies and dogs in training the important skills they’ll need to become life-changing partners for people with sight loss.”