Bill Thornton sitting and holding a golden retriever puppy.

William (Bill) Thornton (Chair)

Chief Executive Officer
BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Canada

Bill Thornton is a devoted Guide and Service Dog provider and proven advocate for those with disabilities. His interest in dog training began when he first trained dogs as an Officer with the National Police Force of Rhodesia. An encounter with Guide Dogs for the Blind, UK on a trip in 1977 inspired his apprenticeship and training as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor.

Following a move to Ottawa, Canada in 1984, Bill founded Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind and served as President / CEO until 1996. A need for Guide Dogs in British Columbia inspired Bill to co-found BC Guide Dogs, the province’s first Guide Dog School for the Blind.

A passion to help more of Western Canada led to the expansion of the organization to Alberta in 2002. Seeing also a great need of Service Dogs for children with profound autism and their families, Bill founded Autism Support Dogs in 2008 and served as Chair of that organization until it amalgamated with BC Guide Dogs in 2014.

Bill has utilized his leadership qualities to contribute on a global scale. From 1986 to 1989, Bill participated in the development of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). Since then, he has taken on many responsibilities with the Federation and has served on accreditation, finance and communications committees; as well as undertaken the role of International Assessor, completing 28 accreditations in 13 different countries. Bill has been appointed to the IGDF Board of Directors from 1990-1996, 1998-2006, and again in 2019 (serving currently). In partnership with Paul Keymer, Bill and Paul co-founded the IGDF “Derek Freeman Scholarship”, which has awarded 23 scholarships since 2006.

He has been a mentor and advisor for many Guide & Assistance Dog schools. In particular, Bill worked alongside Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs (VICD) as it formed in 2013 to ensure that PTSD Service Dogs were provided to Canadian Veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress. VICD has since amalgamated with BC Guide Dogs and together they have expanded their mandate to include assistance for First Responders living with Operational Stress Injuries.

Bill’s career reflects a lifelong commitment to providing life-changing dogs to those in need. His achievements were recognized with the IGDF’s “Ken Lord Award” in 2006. His dedication continues as he guides his organization through expansion and growth, and as he contributes his knowledge and experience to other training schools and like-minded organizations around the world.

Christine Turc standing and smiling, holding a yellow labrador puppy.

Christine Turc (Vice Chair)

Chief Executive Officer
Les Chiens Guides d’Aveugles de L’ouest, France

Christine TURC joined les Chiens Guides d’Aveugles de l’Ouest in July 1995 as Administrative Manager and then became Communication and Fundraising Manager in 2001.

Before entering the guide dog field, Christine managed a temporary workers agency for 5 years in Angers, after 5 years in charge of international statistical studies for the pharmaceutical industry in Paris.

Christine is now Director and CEO for the guide dog school, from the 1st of July 2014, in charge of supervising all activities in the guide dog school from communication and fundraising to breeding, puppy raising and guide dog education and strategic development with the Board.

Christine graduated from a French management school and fluently speaks French, English and Spanish.

She was elected to the IGDF Board at the 2014 Seminar in Tokyo.

Wells Jones in Cowboy hat outside smiling

Wells Jones (Treasurer)

Special Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer
Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, USA

Wells Jones has spent his 40-year career working for not-for-profit organisations that serve people with disabilities. He has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Guide Dog Foundation since 1989, and of America’s VetDogs since 2006. Wells is committed to the accreditation of guide and service dog schools and has been actively involved in advocacy and access issues in support of the right of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide and service dogs in all places open to the public.

Wells serves on the board of directors of the VisionServe Alliance in the US, and as vice chair and treasurer of the Council of US Dog Guide Schools. He previously served as a member of the boards of directors of Assistance Dogs International and Assistance Dogs North America.

Wells was elected to the IGDF board at the 2016 IGDF Seminar in Hvar, Croatia.

Christine Baroni Pretsch with a yellow lab puppy and adult golden retriever.

Christine Baroni-Pretsch

Chief Executive Officer Foundation Romande pour Chiens Guides d’Aveugles, Switzerland

Christine Baroni-Pretsch started her guide dog carrier in 1988 as a GDMI apprentice in the German speaking part of Switzerland. She is the founder and current CEO of Foundation Romande pour Chiens Guides d’Aveugles which currently has two training centres in the French and Italian speaking part of Switzerland.

Christine is particularly interested in breeding better guide dogs and founded the European Breeding Network in 2007.

Working together, sharing and learning from each other is something which is really important to her. She has been elected to the IGDF Board in 2004 and was active in various positions, including vice-chair until 2012. Currently she is an IGDF assessor and has previously served as the board-elected chair of the Accreditation Committee from 2012 until 2016.

Christine feels passionate about helping blind and partially sighted people to build effective partnerships with excellent guide dogs. Working with these teams is incredibly inspiring.

She was co-opted to the IGDF Board in October 2019, and appointed by the membership for a term of four years at the AGM in September 2020.

Karen Hayes with her arm around a yellow lab.

Karen Hayes

Chief Executive Officer Guide Dogs Victoria, Australia

Karen Hayes is recognised as a dynamic influencer in the Australian Not-for-Profit sector. Since November 2011 she has been the CEO of the Victorian Division of Guide Dogs Australia, which is currently Australia’s “Most Trusted Charity,” for the 7th year in a row.

A past Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award finalist, Karen is currently a Board member of Multiple Sclerosis Ltd (6 years), The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (6 years) and a past board member of Vision 2020 Australia, (5 years) Melbourne Football Cub (7 years) and Breast Cancer Network Australia (15 years).

Karen was one of the founders of Breast Cancer Network Australia, and as the co-founder of the Australian chapter of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), she continues to play a leadership role for women across a number of industries and communities globally.

Prior to joining Guide Dogs, Karen enjoyed an exemplary career in the Professional Services sector including as Director, Corporate Engagement and Human Capital with UXC Limited and CEO of Planpower, a major Project Management organisation.

Under Karen’s leadership, Guide Dogs Victoria has delivered a $27m capital campaign to transform GDV’s campus into Australia’s first sensory campus. The new facilities are aimed at improving the lives of people living with blindness or low vision, while also providing a world class environment for breeding and training guide dogs and educating the community.

Karen was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2017, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to business and the community and was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List, for significant service to the community as an advocate for gender equity, and to women in sport. She was also inducted as a Dame in the Order of St John in June 2019, in recognition of her contribution to community.

Kazumasda Oda sitting and smiling with a yellow lab.

Kazumasa Oda

Board Director
Japan Guide Dog Association, Japan

Kazu Oda is one of the board directors of Japan Guide Dog Association since 2011.

He is currently also the principal of JGDA Guide Dog Trainer’s School. Out of 63 graduates, 45 are currently working at JGDA.

He left Japan Airlines Co, Ltd Group in 2010 after working for 41years. He is very well travelled, and has lived in UK, Singapore and Hong Kong through his career.

He is excited to serve IGDF as a board member and is looking forward to the Tokyo Paralympics, as it’ll be a great opportunity for the improvement of public awareness of our Guide Dog movement around the world.

Kazu was elected to the IGDF Board at the 2016 IGDF Seminar in Hvar, Croatia.

Tim Stafford outdoors smiling at the camera.

Tim Stafford

Director of Canine Affairs The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, UK

Tim has worked for Guide Dogs since 1985, qualifying as a guide dog mobility instructor in 1989, progressing through a succession of operational management roles before being appointed Director of Canine Assisted Services in 2014. Tim has led a senior team to deliver strategic change projects including a complete re-design of puppy development, dog training and client instruction programmes.

Tim was appointed Director of Canine Affairs in 2020 and now leads on engagement activities with national and international canine/ assistance dog sector partners, seeking to identify opportunities for closer cooperation, such as in the creation of international standards. Tim has a keen interest in progressive dog training, ethics, welfare and the human-animal bond. He has a BSc (Hons) in Applied Animal Behaviour and is currently studying for a MA in Anthrozoology.

Tim has served on the Accreditation Committee and Development Committee and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2018. Tim is also a Board Director of Assistance Dogs (UK). Tim lives in the South of England and enjoys long country walks with his wife and two dogs.

David Maynard headshot smiling.

David Maynard

IGDF Company Secretary

David has over 12 years of experience in governance and board support roles in the private and not-for-profit sectors, including the British Medical Association, Heritage Lottery Fund, and Link Asset Services. He is an Associate of ICSA – the Chartered Governance Institute of the UK and Ireland.

David manages the IGDF Office in the UK. He works closely with the IGDF Board and Committees to deliver IGDF’s Vision and strategic priorities. David joined IGDF in March 2020.