Shouldn't they be banking at 'Barklays?'

March 2007

As ideas go, it might seem barking mad. But using dogs to withdraw money from the bank is proving a real boon for disabled customers.

These animals demonstrating their skills on the ATM machines are so-called 'assistance dogs', which have been taught to perform a series of everyday tasks which can prove difficult for people in wheelchairs.

Karen O'Donoghue, a spokesman for the charity Canine Partners, based in West Sussex, which trains the dogs, said: "Some people in wheelchairs might manage to gently lever themselves out of their wheelchair to pop the card into the slot, enter the PIN and ask for cash.

"But many do not have the strength to remain in that position while the machine processes the request. Instead, their dogs take over at that point.

"The owner settles back into their wheelchair and issues a command.

"The dog stands on its back legs, places its paws on the machine and takes the card, the money and the receipt in its mouth and gives it to the person in the wheelchair. It is quite impressive to see."

Around 30 dogs - usually Labradors or retrievers - are trained by Canine Partners for wheelchair users each year.

Other tasks they learn include operating a pedestrian crossing button, loading a washing machine, picking items off supermarket shelves and helping their owners dress and undress.