Two service-dog nonprofits — Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar and Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs in San Diego — have announced a merger, effective immediately. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Guide Dogs of America matches people who are blind or visually impaired with trained guide dogs. Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs provides dogs for people with all kinds of disabilities, from wounded veterans to children with autism. It also has programs for hospitals and prisons, where service dogs are used for intervention, rehabilitation and therapy.
The Tender Loving Canines organization will retain its name and offices in San Diego. It will become a division of Guide Dogs of America, which has a 7.5-acre headquarters campus in Sylmar. The merger was announced Tuesday.
“(Tender Loving Canines) shares our goal to transform the lives of people through partnerships with highly trained assistance dogs,” said Guide Dogs President Russell Gittlen in a statement. “This merger will allow us to put more dogs into the hands of people who need them – which is our ultimate mission.”
According to Guide Dogs Outreach Coordinator Zack Gittlen, the merger isn’t rooted in financial need. Rather, it’s about increasing the odds that dogs born at the Guide Dogs facility that aren’t capable of guide work will have the opportunity to enter some kind of service work.
“We have a lot of dogs that were born to be guide dogs that don’t make our program,” Gittlen told the Business Journal. “Say a dog has something like a sniffing issue. Somebody that’s blind can’t manage that very well, but somebody that’s sighted that maybe has (post-traumatic stress disorder) or autism can manage that issue, so the dog could go into another line of work.”
“Both of us recognized it would be a mutually beneficial relationship,” Zack Gittlen said. “(Tender Loving Canines) never had a campus. They don’t have the type of funding that we have, and they don’t have the resources that we have. We have the bandwidth to open our arms and take them in and grow their programs.”