These resources include information about Guide & Service Dogs for Veterans, Assistance Dogs for Children and Adults with Autism. START has compiled this for ease and reference. Additional resources will be added as we get them, please check back from time to time. If you have additional listings you would like to see here contact alicia@STARTrescue.org.
Credit: US Department of Veteran Affairs
What are Guide Dogs?
Guide dogs are trained to lead the blind or vision impaired. The dog acts as a pilot to direct its owner in a straight line unless directed to turn, while avoiding obstacles in all directions.
How do I get a Guide Dog?
Blind Veterans are assessed and trained for orientation and mobility. If a guide dog is preferred, information on how to contact guide dog schools is provided. Partnership with the guide dog is provided through non-VA affiliated guide dog schools.
What benefits does VA provide?
Blind Veterans with working dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. VA does not pay for boarding, grooming, food, or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.
What are Service Dogs?
A service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. For example, a service dog can help a blind person walk down the street or get dangerous things out of the way when someone is having a seizure. Protecting someone, giving emotional support, or being a companion do not qualify a dog to be a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training. Usually the dog is trained to:
- Do things that are different from natural dog behavior
- Do things that the handler (dog owner) cannot do because of a disability
- Learn to work with the new handler in ways that help manage the owner’s disability
Because the handler depends on the service dog’s help, service dogs are allowed to go to most public places the handler goes. This is the case even if it is somewhere pet dogs usually cannot go, like restaurants or on airplanes. But there are a few exceptions. For example, service dogs can be asked to leave if they are not behaving well.
How do I get a Service Dog?
Each Veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
- Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
- Goals that are to accomplished through the use of the dog
- Goals that are to be accomplished through other assistive technology or therapy
The Veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International-accredited agencies. There is no charge for the dog or the associated training. What benefits does VA provide?
Veterans with working service dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. VA does not pay for boarding, grooming, food, or any other routine expense associated with owning a dog.
Non-VA Related Resources
Assistance Dogs International (Service Dogs)
International Guide Dog Federation (Guide Dogs)
Service Dog Organizations
4 Paws for Ability
4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of children with disabilities and veterans by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs. This provides increased independence for the children and assistance to their families. 4 Paws for Ability also helps with animal rescue and educates the public regarding use of service dogs in public places.
Autism Service Dogs of America
Our mission at Autism Service Dogs of America (ASDA) is to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals living with autism, and their families, by providing exceptionally well trained service dogs. Our service dogs provide physical safety and an emotional anchor for children with autism.
Assistance Dogs International
Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is a coalition of not for profit assistance dog organizations. The purpose of ADI is to improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of assistance dogs, staff and volunteer education, as well as educating the public about assistance dogs, and advocating for the legal rights of people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs.
Carla Black, MA, MFT, ATR – Psychotherapist Specializing in Emotional Support Animal Services
Carla Black been referenced as a strong supporter for ESA assisted therapy for those who genuinely need a support animal to cope with psychological trauma. This includes, but is not limited to PTSD veterans needing a companion to feel safe, to rape and abuse survivors who need the support and love of an animal’s unquestioning devotion. As a strong advocate for the physical and mental benefits of Emotional Support Animal ownership; she has constantly worked to ensure that people with a genuine need get the prescription they need to keep their support animal with them throughout life in housing and travel situations. Whether in instances of travel, finding affordable safe housing, or other situations where a support animal is genuinely called for; hundreds of ESA pets and their owners are bonded safely in trust and progressive psychotherapy.
Blessings Unleashed is a national life-changing program that turns rescue dogs into heroes for children with autism. Our mission is to enrich the lives of individuals with autism by training and placing highly skilled service dogs. We accomplish this by properly training select rescue dogs for their future individualized task and educating recipients to utilize and care for their service dog.
Canine Companions for Independence
Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA, Canine Companions is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs, and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. The result is a life full of increased independence and loving companionship.
Custom Canines Service Dog Academy
Custom Canines Service Dog Academy is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization of volunteer professionals and individuals who embrace the endeavor of creating and supporting lasting partnerships between highly skilled service dogs and the community of mankind with diverse impairments and disabilities, thus greatly enhancing their quality of life. The dogs of Custom Canines are placed with their human partners at no cost.
IAADP Veterinary Care Partnership (VCP) Program
IAADP has established an emergency veterinary fund to provide financial aid to United States IAADP Partner Members whose assistance dogs require high cost veterinary intervention beyond their ability to pay. Seven caring companies in the animal health community have responded to the need for this supportive fund with an annual contribution: Bayer Animal Health, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., Nestle Purina, Nutramax Laboratories, Procter & Gamble and Royal Canin USA. IAADP is thrilled to have them participate in this humanitarian effort to assist members on a low income. This fund enables assistance dog partner members to provide help for their canine partners if a sudden illness or injury requires high cost veterinary intervention, beyond their financial means. This is a grant, not an insurance or entitlement program. ONLY the Veterinarian can initiate the request for a grant to Nutramax Laboratories, administrator of the program. Members contacting Nutramax Laboratories directly will VOID their eligibility for a grant.
North Star Foundation
North Star Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization (EIN # 06-1589586). Our mission is to help children who face social, emotional or educational challenges with the help of animal assisted therapy, school visits and assistance dog placements. We have been incorporated for 15 years and have created over 250 assistance dog partnerships with children all over the world.
Autism Speaks Resource Guide
You can also find many local service dog organizations in our online Resource Guide. Click the link and select your state, then scroll down towards the bottom of the page and look under the category “Services” to find a link to service dog organizations.
Autism Speaks Resource Library
Autism Speaks also has a list of family grant opportunities available in our Resource Library that are designed to help families pay for various costs associated with autism treatment and care. Each has different eligibility requirements, so look through each description to see if any could help your family obtain a service dog.
Informational Blogs and News Items
7 tips for getting a service dog for an autistic child
from Autism Daily Newscast
4 reasons why service dogs are awesome
from Autism Speaks
Service dog or therapy dog: Which is best for a child with autism?
from Autism Speaks
Autism service dog program provides support for our community
from Autism Speaks
Student with autism gains legal win to use service dog
from Autism Speaks
Autism and pets: More evidence of social benefits
from Disability Scoop
Lending a paw: ‘Chester the Super Hero Dog’
from Arkansas Online
Autistic child’s family raises money for service dog
from the Natchez Democrat