Murphy was our first SEGD puppy. Although, I was not sure I was qualified to be a puppy raiser, I received all the help, encouragement, and support from everyone at SEGD. Murphy graduated training and is now a working Guide Dog. Raising Murphy was a wonderful experience for my family and I. We cannot wait to do it again. We are so grateful to be a part of the SEGD family.
This is an extremely well run organization, that places guide dogs at no cost to the recipient. These dogs are transformational.
I began volunteering as a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs in 1995 with Victor, a labador puppy. I have since raised 10 more puppies for them, and have learned more with each puppy I have raised. The school has area coordinators in each area to help the raisers, and each raiser receives support from the school. During the year you spend with the puppy you learn a lot about dog training and behavior, and you know you are making a big difference in someone's life. Not all dogs become guide dogs, if the dog does not become a guide dog it is evaluated for another area of service so that it will fulfill its purpose. I love being associated with this organization.
I've raised 2 puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs and believe in their cause 100%. They invest thousands of dollars into each guide dog and never charge the visually impaired recipient. One visit to their campus convinced me that they are one of the highest quality organizations I know.
This is a great organization made up of very hard working and kind individuals, committed to the mission of the school.
My daughter is a trainer at Southeastern Guidedogs in Palmetto, Florida. I have been there for hug a puppy and dog walking. If you are feeling down spend a day there and you cannot leave there in a bad mood. Impossible! Southeastern Guidedogs pairs the visually impaired, veterans (also with PTSD), children, and service organizations with a dog. The dog's training, medical care, food, etc. is at NO COST to the student. This organization is solely funded with donations. The trainers not only train the dogs but each student is housed and fed during class. In those weeks the students are taught by the trainers how to use and trust their companion, giving each one mobility and independence. A truly life changing event! Just watch this video and your heart is filled with joy at the sight of visually impaired getting around places they were not able to go to before. It is awesome!!
Everything aout Southeastern Guide Dogs is first class. From the day I arrived until the day I left, I was treated with the utmost respect. The experience gave me a new lease on life...in fact, it gave me back my life. Thank you Southastern Guide Dogs!
Review from CharityNavigator
I have been a volunteer at Southeastern Guide Dogs for a little over 2 years. Without a doubt, this has been the most rewarding experience I have had in my life, except for the births of my children. I am now able to see the puppies I worked with in the Puppy Kennel 2 years ago graduate and go forward with their visually impaired person to start a brand new life for both of them. This always brings tears to my eyes to know that I have had a hand in helping the visually impaired person get freedom in their life because of their new guide dog.
I walk into the Puppy Kennel or the Training Kennel, depending on my assigned duties for that day, and have a huge smile on my face. The campus of Southeastern Guide Dogs is second only to Disney World as the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH. When my day is finished, I leave with a smile as well. And, all the time I am on campus, I have a smile on my face. How could I not?
I talk with a lot of people during my daily duties. I explain what Southeastern Guide Dogs really does that the general public does not see. I will explain the devotion of the staff, volunteers, puppy raisers, our certified trainers, etc. The guests will stand there with their mouths open and look at me and tell me that they had no idea how much detail, work, love goes into providing a guide dog free of charge for a visually impaired person; from the puppy's birth, puppy socialization, puppy raising, harness training, training with their visually impaired person and finally.......GRADUATION DAY!!!!!! Because I have talked with the guests, a number of them have seen my enthusiasm and have now become volunteers themselves. That makes me feel good as I have been able to enrich Southeastern Guide Dogs with new volunteers as well as enriching the lives of these new volunteers.
The staff at Southeastern Guide Dogs is 5 star all the way, and are joined by all of the volunteers to make up one heck of a TEAM!!! If you are having difficulty with a particular task you are doing, and a staff member is in sight of you, he/she will be at your side in just a few seconds to lend a hand. A red flag doesn't have to be raised, a plea for help doesn't have to go out, your help is already standing next to you helping you get your task completed. TEAM WORK. This is what Southeastern Guide Dogs is built on. TEAM WORK!!!!!! This is the reason that Southeastern Guide Dogs is #1 and will strive to continue to maintain that rating.
As someone once said, "There is no "I" in TEAM. A wag of the TAIL to Southeastern Guide Dogs CEO and board members who have all helped to make Southeastern Guide Dogs a place you want to be, either as an employee, volunteer, guest, or, most importantly, a graduating visually impaired person with a guide dog.
As a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs for nearly ten years, I have shed many tears as I've experienced the emotional highs and lows of this "profession." Relinquishing a puppy after a year together is as difficult as one might imagine, but seeing one's puppy guide a visually-impaired partner is gratifying beyond words. Southeastern has the highest regard for its dogs as well as its volunteers, and I am proud to be associated with its noble mission. Forward Together.
Southeastern is a very mediorce school that does not have many experienced trainers or staff. Services provided are adequate that is all.
Review from CharityNavigator
SEGD came into my life approximately 6 years ago. I was a legally blind veteran with strong mobility skills using a cane. From the time of my discharge from active duty my VIST coordinator at the VA hospital plus my wife had recomended me to get a guide dog. I did not think I needed a guide dog even though I had been struck by an automobile, breaking my leg plus stuck on public transportation for 3 hours because the driver forgot that I was blind. I still was reluctant to take on the responsibility of a guide dog. I wasn't really sure how one could benefit me. After 5 years of incidence of people yelling at me because I tripped them sticking my cane out in front of me and the incidence like above I finally filled out an application for SEGD. With reservations I started class a resident program, I lovingly call "doggy boot camp". I was matched with a beautiful intelligent dog named VAN. The ease at which I navigate, public transportation, shopping malls, etc. is a remarkable change from transiting such places with the white cane. People immediately see and recognize Van as a working dog. The people at SEGD couldn't have done a better job matching me with Van. Even when graduate services had sent out an instructor to my home when Van injured himself and was unable to work for a few months, the instructor worked with Van and I and got our focus back in order. They are always there to answer questions and provide assistance when needed. I can not say enough about the staffs professionalism and the quality of the facilities that they have. I can think of no other organization that can increase a visually impaired person's quality of life in such a great fashion. This service being provided to me at absolutely no cost to myself. SEGD opperates strickly on donations accepting no government funds.
At 68 years old I was told that I was legally blind and would eventually be totally blind by my ophthalmologist. I am a registered professional civil engineer with a lot of experience in construction and was not looking forward to being a person who couldn't perform every day activities. i signed up for a course at the local Manasota Lighthouse which exposed me to every day living skills for people with low vision or blindness. In that course I was exposed to many different agencies available to me and activities available to me to learn things to be active for the rest of my life. One of these agencies was Southeastern Guide Dogs. In this learning process I found that even though I had some vision left now was the time to apply for and obtain a guide dog who could help me find my way from one place to another safely. I set a goal to explore this and researched guide dog schools all over the United States. I found that I lived within 15 minutes of one of the best guide dog schools in the country, Southeastern Guide Dogs. I toured the campus, asked questions and was told that even though I had some vision I was entitled to a guide dog and if I desired one I should sign up to obtain one. I did this, attended the course, and received my first guide dog one year after I was found legally blind. During this course I was trained and treated with respect and dignity and was taught what the dog knew so that I could use the services of the dog intelligently and capably. Since that time we (the dog and I) have become completely bonded and work as team as we were trained by the trainers through this course. Since Graduation I have had occasion to use Graduate Services 2 times, each time they were ready, willing and able to travel to my site to assist me with training techniques to solve my problems. Again, always with dignity. Based on my experiences I would highly recommend Southeastern Guide Dogs as one of the, if not the, premier guide dog school in the United States.
Review from Guidestar
I have been involved with Southeastern for more than a decade, beginning as a "puppy raiser" and now as a member of the Board of Directors. My time is scarce -- and the fact that I am connected with a Florida entity although I live in Texas I believe speaks to how much I value the work that SEGD does, and how effective they are in addressing the independence of the visually impaired. This is a charity that doesn't have a lot of money, but what they do have is the almost boundless enthusiasm of volunteers and a core group of staff that is extremely good at what they do. There is absolutely nothing as inspiring as hearing the story of someone who is visually disabled and has really been given their freedom back through the use of a guide dog. Great work being done by SEGD in Florida.
Blindness is a life altering disability. One must be dependent on others for even the basic needs, especially mobility. Our school breeds, raises and trains dogs to serve as guides and partners for our blind clients. These clients come for all backgrounds and lose their sight from illness, accidents, genetic conditions, and, tragically, as a result of war activities while serving their country. My involvement began with raising puppies for the school. I thought it would be great to be able to take a dog with me anywhere! After 18 months, Kandi, my first pup, was returned to school for training. Five months later, I met her blind owner, heard her story and realized I was doing so much more than raise a puppy. Four of the six dogs I have raised to date are working with their blind owners. The last, Angel, with a 26 year career Army Col, is allowing her owner to, truly, make a difference in the world. The cost of producing a dog who can guide is high, some say too high, relative to the needs of others in the world. Our Board and our organization is constantly looking for ways to improve our product, our service and keep our costs reasonable. A visit to the school is life changing. If lucky, the puppy kennel will be open for the popular public "puppy hugging" event. You will not be the same afterward.
Twenty-five years ago Southeastern Guide Dogs was a new nonprofit organization in my community. I was one of their first kennel volunteers in the first guide dog school for the blind in the southeast. My career, marriage, and son soon demanded a lot of my time and I drifted away from the organization only to return to the Southeastern Guide Dog Campus in 2008 as a Puppy Raiser. A Puppy Raiser is a person or family who takes a two month old puppy into their home and teaches it basic obedience and gives it socialization experiences. When the puppy is approximately 15 months old the Puppy Raiser returns the dog to the Southeastern Guide Dog Campus to begin it's formal harness training to become a guide dog for the blind. I was amazed at the vast improvements made to the SEGD campus in Palmetto, Florida during the years I was not active in volunteering. The 23 acre campus houses world class facilities to help reach it's mission of providing guide dogs to visually impaired individuals to facilitate life's journey with mobility, independence, and diginity. There are breeding kennels, training kennels, dormitories, a freedom walk for training, and an administration building. Visually impaired and blind individuals who are accepted into the program have the opportunity to receive a guide dog that was bred on campus, raised by a puppy raiser associated with SEGD, and trained on campus and in the surrounding Tampa Bay community all at no cost to them or their family. The class lives in beautifully furnished rooms on campus for 26 days while in training with their guide dog and their meals are prepared by an outstanding chef, again at no cost to them. Every opportunity is made to help the individual who has left their home for these 26 days to feel welcome. The estimated $60,000 to raise and train a guide dog is completely offset by private or corporate donations. The first puppy we raised, Scout, is a beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever with a big head and an even bigger heart. He was matched with a person who was blinded while on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces under the school's Paws For Patriots Program. Our family has such great pride that our efforts in raising Scout along with the SEGD professional trainers has provided this individual with the opportunity for freedom, independence, and joy. My husband, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army can not even speak of the wonderful expereince of our family being a puppy raiser and the dog we raised going to a veteran without tearing up. And what a wonderful lesson in life this has been for our 12 year old son! Southeastern Guide Dogs makes miracles happen for visually impaired or blind individuals. My family and I are fortunate to be a part of this wonderful organization.
We are a local home grown organization dedicated to serve the visually impaired and blind. Now 30 years later a self sufficient non governmental institution serving our clients throughout Florida and the Southeastern USA. We also have a special relationship with all our volunteers and donors who give of time and money. We are proud of our efficiency never wasteful of our resources. We have a special duty to our armed services who deserve a special place when we can help. Its about the people; it is a second family.
SEGD gave me back my ZEAL for Life with ANGEL,my guidedog. I am one active lady with her. She and I have gone across the USA speaking to other wounded warriors who are Blind to get their butts back out and be the solution and not the problem in solving the needs for us veterans. I was given the best care my 26 days, that I was telling my partner I wanted to bring home the Chef and staff. I learn and grew so much in the short stay. After my first week I cried so much, I didn't realize how much I needed the TLC and Angel until that day. This is the school for anyone needing a Guide or Service Dog.
As a 10 year Board member of Southeastern Guide Dogs (SEGD), I have witnessed the miracle and life changing event each time our guide dog school provides a FREE guide dog and training. Our blind clients arrive at our school for a 26 day training class with their new guide dog that is given to them after they arrive. They are afraid, alone, and dependent. They leave with a new sense of purpose - with a newly felt independence, freedeom & dignity and happiness - if that is now fullfilling for those who serve as volunteers, then NOTHING will. My heart soars like an eagle each time I see our graduation class tell their story - how they lost their eye-sight & how their new guide dog will change their life. I wish more people could witness this miracle - I have no doubt that God smiles when he looks down on our beloved school and also know that when he looks down at graduation, it brings a tear to His eye! Our Paws for Patriots program also elicts the same feelings. The best example is retired US Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell - the Lone Survivor of a 2005 mission in NE Afghanistan. His 4 man crew was surprised by 150 Talaiban and 3 died after bravely holding off the enemy for hours. A Special Operations Chinook helicopter was sent after them & shot down by a Taliban RPG - 18 Navy Seals and Special Operators were killed - the worst loss of life for US Special Operations ever. Marcus Luttrell, severely wounded with an AK-47 bullet in his leg and a broken back, crawled 7 miles on his hands and knees to a Pastun village who protected him. He wrote a book called Lone Survivor and became the #1 seller on the NY TImes Best Seller List. A movie is being filmed in the Spring of 2011. I received a call from the US Special Operations Care Coalition asking us if we could supply a SEGD Therapy Dog for Marcus as he was having trouble sleeping, had aniexty, & other PTSD issues. After doing our due diligence, we supplied him with Rigby, a yellow lab from our school - it has changed his life and he has now dedicated his life to his new Lone Survivor Foundation which will provide a peaceful multi-acre getaway where would soldiers and their families can rest, fish, horse-back ride, etc ......recover from their wounds - both phyical and mental. Yes, Southeastern Guide Dog is making a huge difference in the lives of thousands!
I have been a puppy raiser for SEGDI for the past ten years and am currently raising my 8th dog. It is a joy and an honor to be involved with the raising and training of one of the noblest animals in existence - a working dog. SEGDI treats it's puppy raisers with great respect and gratitude. They make it clear that the program would not exist without us.
Very simply, I have never felt more cared for and respected as I did at SEGDI! My first guide dog is ready to retire, and I am going back to SEGDI in 3 weeks to train with her successor dog. This organization is so true to their Mission Statement. Harvard Business School should take a lesson from them!
Where to start!!! My husband & I have been involved with SEGD for 3+ years as puppy raisers. We love our "job" .....in fact this is one of the best "jobs" I've ever had....if we could put a price on our experience it would be in the millions of dollars! I must say that the puppies we have raised have changed my life! Having a disability myself I was on the shy side, would never approach someone I didn't know, etc. All that has changed now....when we have our puppy with us we meet so many people and I find myself chatting to each and everyone of them about the school, puppy raising, etc. The school is just beautiful.....beautiful on the outside and beautiful on the inside. You couldn't have a better staff working for SEGD.....friendly, outgoing, professional.....We had the opportunity to attend a graduation and it was just wonderful to see the students with their new best buds and hearing their story!
On a warm afternoon, 2008, I entered the front door of an unfamiliar building where I would spend nearly a month in training with my first dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs. Through the years, each of my six other dogs had played an important part in my life, leading me to and from work, helping me walk to stores and parks with my three children, and accompanying me through air ports and train stations. These dogs had helped me navigate street crossings and locate curbs and stairs, find doors, and make my way into banks and restaurants. Even after the children grew up and moved out, I depended on a dog to help me get around. But in March, I was nervous. I knew what to expect from a guide dog, but I had no idea what to expect from Southeastern. What an incredible experience! The trainers really knew their stuff. They handled the dogs with expertise, skill and love. They also worked patiently with each student, giving clear instructions and making themselves available to answer our questions. The rest of the staff were equally as helpful and accommodating. They did their best to make us feel comfortable in our temporary home away from home. I respect the trainers at Southeastern for hours of dedication, teaching dogs over 40 commands. And I am deeply grateful to the puppy raisers, who provide the basic foundation upon which the rest of the training is built. Southeastern Guide Dogs offers an excellent opportunity for blind and visually impaired individuals, like myself, to get the most out of life, with freedom and independence.
We became part of the Southeastern Guide Dog "family' just over two years ago when we volunterred to be puppy raisers. This was a very, very positive experience. We were so impressed with the Southeastern facility, with the staff and with the care given to the puppies that we knew instantly that this was an organization we would be proud to be a part of. We were assigned to a puppy raising group near to our home. Again, we were impressed with the level of dedication of our Area Co-ordinator and the Puppy Trainer. In fact, everyone involved, we found, were willing to assist us when needed. The level of training these puppies received is top notch. The end result, of course, is this wonderful 'gift' of a guide dog and a companion to some worthy individual. Southeaster Guide Dogs, without a doubt, deserves a five star rating.
I LOVE THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE OF BEING A GUIDE DOG USER. SOUTHEASTERN GIVES US A PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION IN USING A GUIDE DOG AND AT THE SAME TIME THEY MAKE YOU A PART OF THE "FAMILY OF SOUTHEASTERN". THE ATMOSPHERE FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR DOG IS THE BEST IN THE COUNTRY. I AM VERY PROUD TO BELONG TO THE SOUTHEASTERN EXPERIENCE. I HAVE MY SECOND DOG NOW AND PLAN TO ENJOY MANY YEARS ENJOYING THIS WONDERFUL GIFT. THANKS TO THE GREAT STAFF OF SOUTHEASTERN. GLORIA MARRYATT
I have been a guide dog user for Southeastern for minny years I would not go to another school. Danny is my 3rd dog and he is the best yet. I love him and I know he loves me. He is my first boy dog. He is the Lions Clubs Mascot.. I just want to thank the school for changing my life.
I have been raising a SEGD puppy for the last eight months. She is my first puppy and I wasn't sure what to expect in the way of support. From our first visit to a puppy raiser meeting we found the unwavering support of all the SEGD staff and volunteers. Their commitment to the guide dog cause is amazing and they go out of their way to help raisers find the best way to help produce a wonderful guide dog for the blind. The volunteer area coordinators are the most helpful and dedicated people you could ever meet. They work tirelessly to help each of the raisers with any needs.Working with SEGD has been a wonderful experience.
I am a Puppy Raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and I have to say that I love raising for this organization. Southeastern offers so much support and encouragement to all the puppy raisers that they have. The staff are always so friendly and willing to please. The environment at the school is so relaxing. Everyone makes you feel right at home. I love raising for Southeastern and I will continue to do so!
I am a puppy raiser with Southeastern Guide Dogs and I have to tell you that the support and assistance that they give their volunteers is far beyond what I ever expected to receive. They provide guidance and constructive feedback to aid a puppy raiser through every step of the puppy's training. I couldn't be more pleased with the strengths that their knowledge of guide dogs provides to a blind person independence, at totally no cost to the handicapped individual.
From my perspective as a client and new guide dog user, I can only say that Southeastern Guide Dogs runs a facility that is wonderful. Their mission to provide highly trained guide dogs to visually impaired individuals at no cost to them is met and exceeded in every way. The facility itself is lovely; the trainers are first rate and the entire staff is warm, friendly and helpful. That they do this with only private donations and an army of generous volunteers is impressive beyond words. The beautiful dog that is now my constant companion has opened up my world again to the extent that I'm only sorry I didn't do this years earlier. To sum up, I simply can't say enough good things about Southeastern Guide Dogs; the facility, program and people.
As a guide dog user myself, I can honestly say that Southeastern Guide Dogs is one of the finist traning facilities in the USA. The entire staff work hard to see to it that not only do the dogs get the best training and treatment afforded but that the students and graduates are their number one concern. The grounds are set up to train for every situation and the students go through a series of different sceniros in order to assure that they can handle anything they come across in the real world working with their guide dog as a team. The school has people there to help even before you start your training to counsel you on what you need to do in order to obtain a guide dog, how to do it, and what is involved. Then once you have graduated they have a team of GAC (Graduate Advisory Council) that is there 24/7/365 to assist with any problems or questions you may have. I would have to say this is the number one school for anyone looking to get a guide dog and proud to say that I am a graduate myself.
I have been a guide dog user for all my adult life. Over the years, I’ve had dogs from two schools. By far the best dogs I’ve had have been my last five – all Southeastern Guide Dogs. The level of training of these dogs is remarkable. Their personalities, temperament and abilities are outstanding. I want to commend the puppy raisers who give so tirelessly of their time and effort to help produce these amazing dogs and I want to commend the training staff at Southeastern for their exceptional accomplishments. I go to work every day with my dog by my side; traveling safely and independently. He is my guide, my companion and my friend. I have Southeastern to thank for him, for the training I received and for the follow up services I continue to receive. I know the school couldn’t do it without generous donors and I want to thank them as well and point out the value of their support to my ability to conduct an active and meaningful life.
4 stars is a really good score from me. I'm not sure any organization would get 5 stars. I've always thought Southeastern has a great mission and program, but I've been most impressed with the improvements made the last couple of years. There has been a renewed commitment to quality that I have seen in terms of service to the students of the school; health and well being of the dogs; responsiveness to volunters; and, appreciation of donors. I hope Southeastern keeps up its good work.
As a Puppy Raiser for Southeastern I have been impressed with the support of the organization to the volunteers and the impact these sevices have on the blind community.
Over the last four years, I have spent countless hours as a volunteer for this organization in several areas -fundraising, office work, events and raising puppies. I greatly admire the mission they are attempting to accomplish. While revenues dropped and the economy is still not recovered, this organization has spent funds on many unnecessary 'trimmings' (expensive decorative fencing, landscaping, uniforms, etc), reduced the number of clients they serve (from 90 to 70 annually), increased the number of employees (from 52 to over 65), reduced contact with volunteers and donors, new taglines/logo colors (new stationery, vehicle signs, advertising, brochures, etc.), a life size statue in a brick paver 'garden', etc. While the publicly accessed areas of the 'Nursery' has seen many improvements, the other kennels are not air conditioned or even screened, so the dogs live in heat and insects. Many well experienced employees (some with 10+ years there) were dismissed (most without severance) to be replaced with college degreed young hires with NO experience in breeding, handling, training, or caring for dogs or experience with blind individuals for that matter. Approx. 250 puppies are bred and born every year - with only 70 becoming guide dogs. A handful of others become 'Gifted Canines'. Although a 5 year plan is in place, the first priority should have been their 'product' - the dogs, and the clients they serve. Instead, they have focused on 'Image' and being 'premier' and 'world-class', none of which are necessary to GIVE healthy, happy, well-trained guide dogs to blind individuals. There is little to no appreciation or even acknowledgement given to the hundreds of volunteers and no formal program is in place to support them all. As an accountant, I have noticed an oddity. While the Financial Statements (on their website) indicate 2008 Management and General Salaries total only $121,000, the IRS Form 990 indicates the Director of Finance earned over $99,000 and the new CEO earned (annualized) $120,000. Together, their salaries alone total over $210,000, so the numbers are skewed. While it makes the percentage of direct program costs look better, it is not accurate. Additionally, according to a local prominent foundation's current salary surveys of over 100 area non-profits, the CEO and Director of Finance are grossly overpaid for this size charity and their length of service. The vast majority of those serving on the board of directors aren't even Florida residents. Unfortunately, I and more than a few volunteers (some new, some long-time) are turning our attention elsewhere until this non-profit stabilizes.
Titus Herman 09/21/2009
Southeastern Guide Dogs is committed to transparency and adheres to the highest ethical and professional standards – and invites any volunteer, donor or member of the public who has any questions or concerns to visit us in person, call, and/or review any aspect of our operation, including our dog care and training, student instruction and financial practices. The review contains a substantial number of misleading claims and material misstatements. The review incorrectly states that Southeastern Guide Dogs “revenues dropped.” Thanks to the generosity of our donors and increased outreach, Southeastern Guide Dogs’ revenues for Fiscal Year 2008-2009 have seen a healthy increase over the previous year and will be publicly reported once our auditing firm completes its independent review of our finances. With careful oversight by our Board of Directors, the organization is thoughtfully applying available resources to increasing both the quality and the breadth of services provided to individuals with visual impairments. The review incorrectly states that the organization “has spent funds on many unnecessary ‘trimmings’ (expensive decorative fencing, landscaping, uniforms, etc.)” and later on added “new taglines/logo colors (new stationery, vehicle signs, advertising, brochures, etc.), a life size statue in a brick paver 'garden', etc.” to the list. We are gratified to report that each one of these projects has been funded either by designated funds or specific grant awards, or through the generosity of advertising vendors who have provided their goods and services to us at no charge. That, of course, means that the dollars our donors so generously provide to us through their monthly or annual gifts are applied directly to mission fulfillment, including breeding, whelping, raising, harness training and placing our wonderful dogs with our students with visual impairments. The statement that our organization “reduced the number of clients they serve from 90 to 70 annually” is extremely misleading. Over the past year, we have made significant improvements to both the quality and scope of our services. They include: â€¢ A 3 to 1 student to trainer ratio, which enables our staff to provide highly personalized instruction and services to all of our new students, a laudable achievement that should be celebrated rather than criticized. â€¢ A new Graduate Services program that provides ongoing, proactive services – including home visits and consultation – to our active graduates. â€¢ During the past fiscal year, we provided guide dogs to 70 new students, provided in-home follow up training services to 155 graduates, and provided 846 graduate phone consultations. The review incorrectly states our dogs “live in heat and insects.” All of our kennels are properly ventilated for optimum temperature control. And the constant rotation of fresh air in our kennels minimizes the risk of airborne bacteria that may be harmful to our dogs. We control insects throughout the facilities and grounds through the use of a pest control company that utilizes “green” products that maximize the health and well being of our staff, volunteers and animals. The review incorrectly states that “many well experienced employees (some with 10+ years there) were dismissed (most without severance) to be replaced with college degreed young hires with NO experience in breeding, handling, training, or caring for dogs or experience with blind individuals for that matter.” We are proud to adhere to the highest professional standards in all of our practices, including our hiring and staff development practices. We consider a variety of factors in all of our hiring decisions, including education and experience – but not age. Our staffing patterns reflect both longevity (for example, our Director of Training has worked for us for more than 21 years) as well as exceptional experience with breeding, handling, training and caring for the dogs (for example, our trainers have 178 years of combined dog-training experience) and extensive experience with serving the blind community. The review correctly states that our organization has increased the number of employees from 52 to over 65 but fails to indicate the additional staff includes a full-time campus veterinarian and several veterinary technicians, kennel assistants, and guide dog trainers and mobility instructors – all essential to the fulfillment of our mission. All of us at Southeastern Guide Dogs are genuinely proud of the care and attention we provide to our students and dogs. The review incorrectly states we have “reduced contact with volunteers and donors” and that “there is little to no appreciation or even acknowledgement given to the hundreds of volunteers and no formal program is in place to support them all.” In fact, we have greatly expanded contact with all stakeholders through regular communications that include both direct communications (e.g., through staff outreach) as well as traditional media (e.g., newsletters and annual reports); electronic media (e.g., our website and blogs for puppy raisers, graduates and breeder hosts); and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We have several formalized programs to support our volunteers, including a new Volunteer Retention and Recognition program and an expanded Puppy Raising Services Department that provides ongoing support and recognition to our 250 puppy raisers. The statement that “approx. 250 puppies are bred and born every year - with only 70 becoming guide dogs and a handful of others becoming 'Gifted Canines'” is misleading. While our breeding to placement ratio is consistent with North American industry standards, our Gifted Canines program places a significant number of dogs that do not meet the specific criteria required for guide dog work into alternative careers such as therapy and law-enforcement careers. During the last fiscal year, we placed 60 dogs into such important careers. The statement that the numbers reported in our Audited Financial Statements and Form 990 are “skewed” are grossly misleading. We are happy to discuss the numbers reported – and made publicly available – with anyone who has bona fide questions regarding them. The claim that ”according to a local prominent foundation's current salary surveys of over 100 area non-profits, the CEO and Director of Finance are grossly overpaid for this size charity and their length of service” is unsubstantiated by the facts. Executive compensation is reviewed each year by a strong and independent board comprised of community leaders with assistance from an outside, independent compensation expert and in-depth compensation studies. Finally, the statement that “the vast majority of those serving on the board of directors aren't even Florida residents” is both incorrect and also highly misleading. As listed on our public website, nine of our 14 board members – 64% - are Florida residents – but since Southeastern Guide Dogs, as implied by our name, serves individuals throughout a 12-state region, it is certainly necessary and appropriate to have the entire Southeast represented on the board.