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The Botanics ‘takes the lead’, with Assistance Dog Day

Press Release   •   May 15, 2014 00:00 BST

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will host an Assistance Dog Day on Sunday 15 June to highlight the accessibility of the Garden.

The day has been officially launched by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism. Partners of the event include the major assistance dog associations across Scotland and the UK: Guide Dogs Scotland, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Canine Partners and Medical Detection Dogs.

The day promises to be fascinating and fun for all the family. In the beautiful surroundings of the Botanics, the public will be able to meet some of the cleverest dogs around. People will get the chance to take a blindfolded walk with a guide dog, meet the cutest puppies in training, learn about the skills of hearing dogs and others that help people with disabilities.

There will be assisted Garden guided tours for those with visual impairments, hearing difficulties and mobility problems. Also, conservationist Dr Heather McHaffie will talk to visitors about how plant-hunting impacts on the senses. Assistance dog owners and their canine companions will be especially welcome.

On launching the initiative, the Minister commented: “Scotland’s world class visitor attractions sit at the heart of the memorable experience we offer tourists. Today’s launch of the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden’s Assistance Dogs Day is an example of how Scotland’s visitor attractions are working to ensure that all their visitors receive a warm welcome.

“Visitor attractions have a key part to play in achieving our aims for Homecoming Scotland 2014 especially during this significant year for Scottish tourism which also features the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and MTV Europe Music Awards.”

Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: “Around nine per cent of our visitors last year identified themselves, or a member of their group, as being disabled. Our day in June will be an opportunity for us to invite even more people with specific needs to visit us. We hope to gain lots of feedback from visitors which will help us to continue to develop what we offer here at the Botanics.”

The idea of Assistance Dog Day at the Botanics has been created in association with VisitScotland to celebrate accessible tourism. Commenting, Chris McCoy, Head of VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Project, said: "Assistance dogs make a vital contribution to the lives of hundreds of people throughout the country and it is important that, wherever possible, they are made to feel welcome by Scotland’s tourism businesses. The Assistance Dog Day is a terrific way for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to highlight the difference these wonderful animals make to so many lives and get people thinking about how they can make their own businesses more accessible.”

Notes to Editors Contact:

Paula Bushell,

Head of Marketing and Communication

07866 312545, or

Shauna Hay,

Press Manager

0131 248 2900/07824 529028

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was recently listed as the 17th best attraction for disabled people and their carers to visit in the UK by The Vitalise UK Tourism Report 2014.

The Garden’s mission is ‘exploring and explaining the world of plants for a better future’ and it is a leading research organisation delivering knowledge and education about plants.

Guide Dogs Scotland, supported entirely by public generosity, provides a range of mobility services for people with sight loss. There are around 530 guide dog owners in Scotland and the organisation strives to ensure that blind and partially sighted people enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a registered charity that trains dogs to alert deaf people to household sounds and danger signals such as the doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm. Hearing Dogs provides a national service and no charge is made to recipients. Since its inception in 1982, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People have placed more than 1950 hearing dogs. The charity will be launching a new puppy socialising scheme in Scotland later in the year.

Canine Partners trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities to enable them to enjoy a greater independence, better quality of life and, where possible, to help them into education and employment. The organisation supports people with varying complex disabilities such as MS, Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy. The dogs are trained with everyday tasks such as opening and closing doors, unloading and loading the washing machine, picking up dropped items, pressing buttons and switches and getting help in an emergency.

Medical Detection Dogs is a charity which trains specialist dogs to detect the odour of human disease. Medical Alert Assistance Dogs are trained to assist people who manage complex medical conditions on a day to day basis. The dogs are taught to identify the odour changes that are associated with certain medical events.

Notes to Editors:

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