Guide Dogs and Much More: The Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson Foundation

Illinois salesman Arthur L. Johnson Jr. loved German shepherd dogs. He especially loved the faithful service they could give to blind and handicapped human owners as guide dogs. So in 1990, Johnson launched a foundation with a distinctive mission: helping to train guide dogs and getting them adopted by the humans who need them. And so the Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson Foundation was born. The foundation’s mission has grown and evolved ever since, to encompass not only these domestic canine caregivers, but wildlife species of all kinds, too.

Guide dogs still hold a central place in this foundation’s philanthropic mission, with the largest number of its grants still going toward guide-dog schools—specifically, those schools that train dogs to serve owners who have a physical disability such as blindness or partial paralysis. These include such schools as:

  • Southeastern Guide Dogs, a Florida guide-dog school. It received $90,000 to buy equipment for a new veterinary hospital. Additionally, it got $68,190 in another year to upgrade its internal database so as to better track each dog and his or her history; and $40,000 more in a third year for its Sarasota Discovery Center, which sells puppy treats, toys, and memorabilia and donates the proceeds to the school.
  • Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This school, based in Yorktown Heights, NY, received a $50,000 grant so that it could purchase new veterinary equipment for its animal hospital.
  • Guide Dogs of Texas, a guide-dog school that held a “Best in Sight” fundraising event to expand its donor base and raised more than $40,000. After the event, Arthur and Elaine V. Johnson gave the school a matching grant of $40,000 toward the same cause. 

Note that each of the above schools used its grants to expand facilities or services. That’s an important element of Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson’s giving, too. It looks for ways to fund long-term change. Grant seekers who want funding to build a new hospital or a new internal database fit this description. Grant seekers who are looking for funds for general operating expenses or a onetime conference, on the other hand, do not—and they will be turned down.

Now for a few words on the foundation’s other area of interest: Wildlife conservation. It gives some large sums of money to initiatives for new nature reserves or to rehabilitate threatened wildlife populations. The American Prairie Foundation garnered $150,000 to acquire plains lands for conservation and preservation, for example, while the Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix, Arizona, got $400,000 to construct a Black-Footed Ferret Breeding Center that would breed this endangered ferret species and reintroduce it back to the wild.  

Like its guide-dog funding, this foundation’s conservation funding prioritizes long-lasting impacts. Wildlife-rehabilitation programs whose target animal species aren’t endangered or threatened, or in some way significant, rarely get funding. And if you’re not directly working with animals at all, forget it—simple advocacy for wildlife will not receive any funding, according to the foundation’s website.

In sum, this foundation is all about the animals and ways that we can help them most in the long term—and how they can help us, too!