The History of Hearing Dogs in New Zealand

The introduction of Hearing Dogs to New Zealand is thanks to the dedication and commitment of two women: Hannah Samuel, an experienced business development manager; and Johanna Brens, a trained Occupational Therapist.

Johanna went to the UK and Australia in 1997, taking 6 months’ unpaid leave from her job, to train at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People UK, and at the Lions Hearing Dog Centre near Hahndorf, South Australia. In Australia, she was gifted with Shandy, a Finnish Spitz cross from the Adelaide Animal Welfare Centre.

Hannah Samuel was the driving force in developing the structure of Hearing Dogs NZ, and developing the policies and procedures required to meet international training standards.


In July 1997, Hannah Samuel presented to Parliament and the Bill for Public Access for Hearing Dogs was passed unanimously.

At that time, it was all happening from a garage in Auckland, but Hearing Dogs was in need of a more permanent home. Various options were considered, including teaming up with the SPCA but Hearing Dogs wanted to retain its own identity. The main obstacle of course was cost, as the fledgling organisation simply did not have the resources to fund the establishment of proper training facilities.

Meanwhile in Taranaki, the New Plymouth Hearing Association had a substantial legacy left in their care from the estate of the late Shirley Beard. The main proviso of this bequest was that it be used for the training of Hearing Dogs in New Zealand.

Susan Broadhurst, a member of the New Plymouth Hearing Association, along with her husband Ted, had visited Hearing Dogs in the UK and had contacted Johanna and Hannah on their return. A public meeting led to the formation in early 2000 of the Taranaki Establishment Group, with the aim of creating a training centre for Hearing Dogs in New Plymouth.

The Establishment Group received tremendous support from the local community, with many individuals and companies providing help, guidance and assistance. A perfect location was found, with a long-term lease, to avoid the need to raise the money to purchase land.

Together with Johanna and Hannah, the group drew up the specifications for the facilities, obtained designs and quotes for the work and tackled the daunting task of raising the necessary funds.

Three years later, and with the generous financial support of major sponsors The Shirley Beard Trust, members of the New Plymouth Hearing Association and the TSB Community Trust, along with many others, the grand opening of the National Training Centre took place and the operations were transferred permanently to New Plymouth.

Following this, Ted Broadhurst and Auckland-based Rod Gardner joined the Board of Trustees, alongside Hannah and Johanna, to provide the governance necessary for the development of Hearing Dogs.

A general manager and marketing manager were appointed, together with additional dog trainers and administration staff. This completed the set-up of Hearing Dogs NZ as a fully functioning and financially viable not-for-profit organisation.


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