It can be intimidating trying to find the right source for a service animal, especially when there are so many different resources online. This post will provide you with some advice to find websites and organizations that will ensure you find the best trained and supportive animal for your needs.
Pick a breed
Some organizations are strict about the type of breeds they provide for specific needs, but others are more flexible. Either way, it is a good idea to go into this process having done some research to narrow down what kind of dog will provide you the best support and whose health and training needs won’t break the bank for you. When choosing and researching a breed, try not to let your personal preferences cloud your judgment. The right dog for you might not be the type of dog you wanted when you were a child, or the dog you find the cutest. Making sure to remain unbiased in your choice is a good first step in choosing a dog that will make it through training successfully, and provide you with the support you need in your home, workplace, etc (Breed, 2016).
Check out this article for some useful information on selecting a dog breed, but stay flexible. A reliable organization may have different recommendations for you depending on your disability, personality, and location.
Set a budget
Since this fluffball is going to be your day to day best friend, confidante, and helper, you’re not going to want to pick one based simply on price. But it is still a good idea to know what you can afford, and what the price range is for your desired breed.
Service dogs generally run in price from $100 - $5,000 before training. After training, which can cost several thousand dollars, you should also factor in predicted medical fees, food, supplies, and transportation costs. This final number can be between $10,000 - $20,000 out of pocket.
If this is out of your price range, here are a few organizations to get you started in looking for scholarships or fundraising assistance.
Autism Service Dogs of America - This organization will “screen and evaluate each situation individually” to determine whether a service dog will benefit a child with autism.
Assistance Dog United Campaign - Assistance is provided in the form of vouchers, which are applied to the ADUC member provider program of the client’s choice.
Planet Dog Foundation - Besides service dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs, and medical alert dogs, this organization also has resources for therapy dogs, police dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Paws With a Cause - This organization cites themselves as “ideal for those with disabilities affecting one or more limbs”. They provide dogs free of charge to qualified clients, and fundraise through individual donors to pay for the costs.
Learn how to spot an unreliable service dog provider
Generally this can be done using common sense. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
Does the website look legitimate? Are there clear explanations of the organization's goals? Are there reviews on the website/ Yelp?
Some organizations can be weeded out quickly by simply evaluating their online presence. A lack of reviews, shoddy website, lack of other references on the internet or information about their program are all warning signs about the quality of their work.
Does the organization respond to your questions adequately?
Providers should be willing to provide solid answers to any and all questions about the dog’s health, demeanor, and the resources they provide for clients. This includes providing medical and training records for the dog in questions, a visit to the facility or contact information with the trainer, as well as training support after placement (Service Dog Central, 2014).
Do you know anyone who can recommend a provider?
Referrals are one of the best ways to find resources for anything you might need. Ask your friends, family members, or any local organizations for recommended providers for service animals. Someone that you know and trust will likely provide a better recommendation that any online review.
Here are few websites and organizations, in addition to others listed above, that might prove useful for sourcing your new furry best friend and life assistant. Good luck in your search!
Resources for Veterans:
Assistance Dogs International - Establish standards of excellence in all areas of assistance dog acquisition, training and partnership”. This website provides a search tool for regional chapters around the world.
American Kennel Club - A list of therapy dog organizations certified by the AKC.
Service Dog Central - Forum for service dog related discussions
Psych Dog Partners - Information about getting a dog
Foundation for Service Dog Support - Resources for those interested in training dogs, certification for training teams, and canine safety training