In my previous posts, I have talked about the role that service dogs can provide in a differently-abled individual’s life as well as personal considerations before moving forward with a service dog commitment. Stories of desperate individuals raising money for a service dog agency who then skips town with the money or provides a poorly trained service dog unfortunately aren’t uncommon. In today’s post, I am going to discuss a few considerations for choosing an agency with which to work.
To begin the process, research about the agency and their practices is key. Things to look for in your initial internet search:
- How long has the agency been in business?
- How many successful service dog placements has the agency had?
- Does the agency have nonprofit status?
- What is the agency’s rating on Charity Watch as well as the Better Business Bureau?
- While online review sites aren’t always reliable, it is a good idea to see what kinds of things people are saying about the agency. You can follow up on these concerns in your research process or with the agency itself.
- What do other families who have received dogs from the agency have to say about their experience?
- What types of service dogs does the agency provide?
- If applicable, will the agency consider applicants with multiple disabilities?
- Does the agency provide service dogs free of charge, for a fee, do the fundraising for you, or require you to do your own fundraising? None of these agencies are inherently bad, it is just a matter of what you are personally comfortable with.
- What is the cost or required donation amount for the service dog? Service dogs aren’t cheap to train and the average agency fees may be upward to $25,000.
- What is the agency’s average wait list time?
- What type of training does the agency provide for their dogs?
- What type of training does the agency provide for the individuals receiving the dogs?
- Is the training at a facility or in your own home?
- What type of follow-up support does the agency provide?
- Are the dogs trained similarly or are they trained to individual needs?
- What is the agency’s application process?
- With what age groups does the agency place service dogs?
- If you have pets at home, does the agency allow you to have indoor pets while owning one of their service dogs?
- What are the yard or fence requirements of the agency?
- Does the agency require that the new service dog team undergo public access certification?
- What breeds of dogs does the agency train?
- Who owns the dog after placement? After the dog’s retirement?
Other options depending on your state’s requirements, include hiring a dog trainer to train a dog you currently own or obtain either from a breeder or a shelter, or training a service dog yourself. Each option has unique benefits and challenges and ultimately you will have to simply choose the service dog path that is right for you.
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