Arnold Cook was responsible for bringing the first Guide Dog to Australia.
A young West Australian, Arnold lost his sight through a rare disease at the age of 18. After graduating from the University of Western Australia, Arnold Cook went to England to further his studies at the London School of Economics. Whilst there, Arnold heard about the Guide Dog Association in Britain and applied for a dog. He was accepted and trained with Dreana, a black Labrador bitch.
In 1950 Dr Arnold Cook, returned home with his Guide Dog, the first in Australia. Dreana created enormous interest and soon other blind West Australians were anxious to have a dog for themselves. A year later the first Guide Dog Association in Australia was formed in Perth. With the support of Apex Clubs, the Guide Dog Association brought the first trainer to Australia from England. The first Guide Dog to be trained in Australia was a Kelpie/Border Collie cross, Beau. Beau and his blind owner Mrs Elsie Mead travelled all over Australia promoting Guide Dog mobility.
By 1957, there were Guide Dog Associations in each State. The newly formed State Associations decided to expand their movement on a national basis and to establish a training centre in a more accessible central state.
The Move to Victoria
In 1962, the Association's headquarters moved to Kew. The first specially designed Guide Dog Centre in the world was built on land granted to the National Association by the Victorian Government. In 1965 a controlled breeding program was introduced following a donation from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc. of California who donated two Golden Retriever puppies. These pups along with a pedigree stud Labrador which was a gift from the UK, formed the nucleus of the breeding program in Australia at the Guide Dog Centre in Kew.
In 1967 the Puppy Raising program was launched, enabling young pups to be socialised for their first 12 months by volunteers in a family environment.
Guide dogs victoria
From 1 July 1998 Guide Dogs Victoria assumed the business operations of the National Association, known as the Royal Guide Dogs Associations of Australia. This included the Guide Dog breeding, Puppy Raising and training programs as well as Guide Dog and other mobility services for vision impaired clients. State Associations continue to service vision impaired clients in their own state.
Guide Dogs Victoria is a member of the International Guide Dog Federation.