Pathfinder Dogs: Helping blind people to be more independent

Pathfinder Dogs offers training, support and assistance dogs to people who are blind or partially sighted. With the help of a loan from Charity Bank, it recently bought a property to use as accommodation for clients.

Social Problem

An assistance dog can make a huge difference to the life of someone who is blind or partially sighted, but it takes up to three years to raise and train a dog. On top of that, there is a real shortage of assistance dogs in the UK and waiting lists are even longer for pure bred German Shepherds.


Anne Royle set up the charity Pathfinder Dogs back in 2003 after being told she’d need to wait at least three years to be matched with a new German Shepherd assistance dog. Her old dog had just retired, and as Anne explains, “It’s like being a wheelchair user, having your wheelchair taken away and then being told you’ll have to wait three years for another one.” The charity now trains German Shepherds from puppies to adulthood and matches them with the right person.


Clients undertake a three-week course in Scotland to learn how to work and care for their new dog. While Anne leads the course, the charity was spending up to £3,000 a time on hotel accommodation, meals and other expenses. It had also been given notice to leave a commercial property, so needed somewhere for trustees to meet. A supporter generously lent the charity the money it needed to buy a two-bed property, and then Pathfinder Dogs took out a £87,250 loan with Charity Bank to part pay him back.


While the property is used to accommodate people who are learning to handle their new dog, it also serves many more purposes and has now become an essential base for the charity. On average, 11 people who have recently lost their sight visit the house to be trained by Anne in basic life skills, such as making tea and loading a dishwasher. People who hope to be matched with a dog can also be assessed at the house. Trustees and volunteers regularly meet there, and during lockdown Anne and her team used the kitchen to cook up to 135 meals a day for local people who couldn’t cook for themselves.

“Danny at Charity Bank was brilliant. He understood that paperwork would take longer as I needed to listen to it rather than read it. We’re now looking at a new project – to build a community of homes that will enable blind and partially sighted people to live independently. And we’re talking to Danny about that too.”

Anne Royle, Founder of Pathfinder Dogs

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1000 loans totalling over £350m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

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