Tim Stafford outdoors smiling at the camera.

Tim Stafford (Chair)

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

Tim has worked for Guide Dogs (UK) since 1985, qualifying as a guide dog mobility instructor in 1989 working in the UK and New Zealand.  Tim holds a BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Animal Behaviour and a master’s degree in Anthrozoology.  Tim progressed through a succession of management roles before being appointed as Director of Canine Assisted Services in 2014 to lead the re-design and development of the canine system of breeding, puppy development, dog training, behaviour, welfare, and partnership services. Tim moved into his present role as Director of Canine Affairs in 2020 to strengthen engagement and collaboration with national and international partners and provide executive directors with subject matter expertise. Tim represents Guide Dogs and IGDF as part of the European Consortium on European Standards for Assistance Dogs (CEN/TC 452) where he is also the co-convenor of the working group for Lifetime Welfare.  In addition to being a Director/Trustee of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) he is the current Chair of Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK).

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 career 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 was elected to the IGDF Board in 2004 and has been 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.

Nicola Cotton with labrador puppy

Dr Nicola Cotton

Veterinary and Reproduction Manager
Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs

As Veterinary and Reproduction Manager at Seeing Eye Dogs Australia, Nicola oversees the veterinary care of the organisation’s dog population, breeding, reproductive health and neonatal care. Nicola joined Seeing Eye Dogs in 2014, before this having worked as a veterinarian for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and as an emergency veterinarian.

Nicola is enthusiastic about using data to promote continuous improvement in success rates and animal welfare within the dog guide industry, and exploring the interactions between these concepts. Collaboration and knowledge sharing within the industry to deliver enhanced outcomes for dogs and clients are additional areas of focus for Nicola. 

To advance this cause, Nicola has presented on dog health and breeding topics at ADI and IGDF conferences, and has taken on several roles in the industry, being a member of the IGDF Animal Welfare Special Interest Group and the ADI Breeding Standards Subcommittee. Nicola also led the development of the Seeing Eye Dogs Animal Welfare Strategy and headed Seeing Eye Dogs’ participation in the ADI Oceanic Breeding Co-operative as a founding member and currently sits on the ADI International Breeding Co-operative Steering Committee.

Barry O’Toole

Guide Dog Mobility Specialist
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, UK

Barry is an experienced Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI). He has been working for Guide Dogs for the Blind UK in their London office for over 13 years. He has a degree in Zoology from the Trinity College  Dublin and a post-graduate degree in Biodiversity and Conservation. He is also a quailed Vision and Rehabilitation Specialist.

A keen traveler, Barry has worked as a veterinary nurse in both Hawaii and Australia, a wildlife orphanage assistant in South Africa, a speaker and tour guide at Aukland Zoo in New Zealand and volunteered at a sight saving NGO in Ethiopia. In his spare time, he loves swimming, cycling and cooking. Barry was appointed to the Standards Committee in October 2023.

Jim Kessler sitting with a black labrador

Jim Kessler

Assistant Director, Instruction and Training 
The Seeing Eye Inc, USA

Jim Kessler graduated from Miami of Ohio class of 1994 receiving a B.S. in Business Administration.  He started his career in New York City working in the financial services industry. He worked for both Lehman Brothers and the Federal Reserve Bank and in September of 2001, was hired at the Seeing Eye where he began his career as an apprentice.  He worked as a GDMI until February 2011 and assumed a different role as a Senior Manager of Instruction and Training. During April 2016, Jim was promoted to Assistant Director of Instruction and Training. He has also enjoyed his role as an assessor for the IGDF since 2019.

He is happily married with 4 children. Jim is an avid runner participating in marathons and a cyclist. He truly enjoys his family and spending time with them.