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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Guide Dogs celebrate anniversary
The UK's first guide dogs and their owners
The UK's first guide dogs were German Shepherds
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has marked the 75th anniversary of UK guide dogs with a series of events across the country.

The organisation was founded in Wallasey, Wirral, in 1934 but work first began with four trained German Shepherds in 1931.

The celebrations include services at Durham Cathedral and York Minster.

Chris Dyson, of the association, said: "We want to raise people's awareness of just how much an asset guide dogs are."

The association's 30 district teams are also taking part in community events around the UK to mark the anniversary.

Humble beginnings

Guide dogs were first used when four blind men started being aided by German Shepherd dogs called Flash, Meta, Judy and Folly, who were the first guide dogs to walk the streets of the UK.

Three years later the Guide Dogs organisation was formed and began training the animals out of a lock-up garage.

Mr Dyson said: "We don't receive any government funding and we hope that people will continue to come forward and support our work.

"We're extremely proud of all the years we have existed in the guide dog movement and how we have grown to become the world's largest breeder and trainer of assistance dogs.

"We will continue our work to provide freedom and mobility and independence for blind and partially sighted people."

There are currently around 4,700 working guide dogs in the UK, and around 1,000 guide dog pups are born in the homes of the charity's 210 volunteer brood bitch holders every year.

It costs 35,000 to breed, train and support a guide dog for the duration of its life.

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