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Guide Dogs Get A Uniform Face-Lift

New Harnesses For Old - Guide Dogs Get A Uniform Face-Lift

Guide dogs across New Zealand will be sporting new look harnesses over the next year as their old white harnesses are replaced with new black or brown leather harnesses with white reflective material attached to the front, top and sides of the body piece.

The change was prompted when the original harness supplier stopped producing harnesses. Guide Dog Services had additional concerns about the quality of the leather, which although white in colour was in fact an artificial covering on a thin leather backing.

"Although we lost both our harness maker and our leather supply and had to start from scratch, we were keen to use the opportunity to look at alternatives to the white vinyl-leather harnesses " says Ian Cox, General Manager Guide Dog Services.

"Feedback from our regional guide dog instructors indicated how quickly the harnesses cracked and became darker in colour, which reduced visibility and looked unprofessional."

Guide Dog Services secured a contract with another supplier in spite of difficulties with low profit margins and the need for specialised equipment and skill to make the harnesses.

"Our new suppliers advised that they had a consistent supply of better quality black or brown leather available, which would lengthen the life of the harness and maintain it's appearance over time and be more cost effective," says Mr Cox.

Concerns were raised about the visibility of the new leather colour on dark haired guide dogs, but the white reflective material attached to each harness will be clearly visible both day and night - and in fact safer

"It's been a lengthy process, but we are really pleased with the new product and think our guide dog teams will be happy with the changes as well," says Mr Cox.

"The end result means you won't see much of the black or brown leather. The reflective bands and colour of the handle will stand out the most. This will be the clearest way of recognising the handler as being blind or severely sight-impaired.

"As far as the public is concerned, we ask for their support in recognising that the new harnesses are legitimate and are an indication of a working guide dog team.

"Guide dog users should not be challenged about their rights to enter public places and travel on public transport - they are legally entitled to take their guide dogs everywhere [except burns units and zoos]."

The new look harnesses will be phased in over time as old ones come up for replacement.


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