Our History

Australian Lions Hearing Dogs was initially conceived in 1980 when two Lions, PDG Bob Allen and PDG Brian Carter, attending an International Lions Convention in the USA, discovered the Hearing Dog Training Centre in Colorado. The idea was brought back to Australia and at the Multiple District Convention in Canberra, the Lions Clubs of Australia and Lions Clubs International Foundation, voted to fund the launch of Australian Lions Hearing Dogs.

Following this, a property was acquired at Verdun in the Adelaide Hills, where the Training Centre still stands today. Trainer, Gale Gold from the American Hearing Dogs program, came to Australia for two years to start the project.

The first dog, Amber, sponsored by the Lions Club of Edwardstown, was delivered on 10th April 1982 to Mrs M Bragg, at Para Vista, Adelaide.

Since inception, more than 600 dogs have been delivered to deaf and hard of hearing people nationwide, free of charge. Currently, there are Australian Lions Hearing Dogs assisting their owners in every State and Territory in Australia.

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alhd history

The number of our Hearing Assistance Dogs in active service will increase exponentially as we implement our capital expansion program. Our aim within the next ten years of planned growth is to have close to 1,000 dogs in active service at anytime.

Australian Lions Hearing Dogs is an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). To maintain our membership, ALHD must comply with standards set down by ADI that cover training of both recipients and dogs, animal welfare, administration and more. To maintain ADI accreditation, our compliance is audited by ADI every five years. ALHD remains engaged with the recipient and their dog for the working life of the dog with follow up accreditation visits every two years.

ALHD Major Events & Milestones

1980

The Hearing Dogs Project was brought to Australia by Lions Clubs of Australia from the United States, marking the beginning of Australian Lions Hearing Dogs.

1982

National Training Centre in Verdun, Adelaide Hills officially opens and the first Hearing Assistance Dog trained and delivered is Amber.

1987

Bluey, dog #100 is delivered to a recipient in Queensland.

1990

Incentive based training was introduced, with each dog trained using food or toys to motivate work. This was a great milestone for ALHD, as dogs worked harder for rewards.

1991

Dog #200, Laddie, is delivered to a recipient in Queensland.

1992

As the role of a Hearing Assistance Dog increases, training commences in public spaces to improve each dog’s public behaviour for access rights.

1995

Churchill Fellowship funds study tour of US centres, allowing some training staff from ALHD to attend overseas training centres. The training staff are then able to learn new techniques and ideas, bringing these back to ALHD for improvement.

1997

The Hearing Dogs concept is introduced to New Zealand and Hearing Dogs NZ is started. Jax, dog #300 is delivered to a recipient in Victoria.

2002

Lions International President, Barry Palmer, opens the ALHD Administration Building at the National Training Centre, as the organisation continues to expand.

2003

Quarantine Kennels are built and erected, creating an isolated space for new dog recruits to stay for the safety of all dogs.

2005

ALHD’s 400th dog, Bernie, was delivered to a recipient in Banora Point, NSW.

2012

ALHD delivers 500th dog, Julia, to a recipient in Victoria.

2014

Dog Assessment Program introduced which allows high quality vetting process for each dog passing through training. This means only very high-achieving dogs are welcomed into the Hearing Dog program.

2016

Bill Holmes Award was created to honour past ALHD CEO and National Charman, Bill Holmes OAM. The award is provided to friends of ALHD whose service and contribution to the organisation has exceeded expectation.

2017

ALHD welcomes a new Patron, His Excellency the Honorable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia.

2018

The ALHD Puppy Program & Volunteer Program are introduced, providing support to the growing organisation and ensuring supply of dogs for training. The idea for expanding the ALHD National Training Centre was conceived and commenced discussions.

2019

Lions Club of Australian Hearing Dogs was established by staff and friends of ALHD, to further support recipients in financial hardship. Our 600th dog, Jakeb, was delivered to a recipient and family in Victoria.

2020

Fundraising and plans for the capital expansion of the National Training Centre commences.