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Resources for finding service dogs, therapy dogs, and other types of assistance dogs

June 12, 2016

Tags: service dog, therapy animal, disability, medical assistance dogs, signal dog

by Pat McNees, updated 8-8-16, 5-17-17)
See also FAQs, stories, and articles about assistance dogs and Books about assistance dogs
Find the bomb! Good boy! Man’s best friend may be our best bet for staying safe. (Andrea Sachs, Washington Post Magazine, 8-4-16) Dogs are being trained and employed in such fields as search and rescue; narcotics, explosives and bedbug detection; and diabetes alert. Some are providing therapy support and detecting ovarian cancer. Nearly 1,000 six-legged teams safeguard more than 100 airports, mass transit stations and cargo-hold sites. In these anxious times, dogs could have a twofold impact on potential terrorist attacks: deterrence and detection. Sachs writes about where some of man's best friends are being trained, and how, to make the country safe.
A Complete Guide to Service, Therapy and Emotional Support Dogs (Karen Wang, Friendship Circle, 5-23-13) Suggests resources for finding mobility assistance dogs, medical response dogs (for humans with seizures, diabetes, severe allergies), signal dogs for the hearing impaired, guide dogs for the visually impaired, autism service dogs, psychiatric assistance dogs, therapy dogs, emotional support/companion animals.
Assistance Dogs International (a coalition of not for profit organizations that train and place assistance dogs, setting standards for the assistance dog industry)
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) (an important nonprofit, cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing, and service dogs). You can read issues of IAADP's invaluable newsletter Partners Forum online, free.
Alliance of Therapy Dogs (a national therapy dog registry with 14,000+ members, one aim of which is to provide registration, support, and insurance for members who are involved in volunteer animal assisted activities)
Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs
Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) (nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships)
Canines for Hope (psychiatric service dogs, and service dog training, South Florida)
Dog Wish ("America's top psychiatry service dog facility")
4 Paws for Ability a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to place quality service dogs with children with disabilities and veterans who have lost use of limbs or hearing; help with animal rescue, and educate the public regarding use of service dogs in public places. Mentions service dogs for humans with autism, diabetes, hearing problems, mobility problems, seizures, and kids on the FASD spectrum (fetal alcohol syndrome and/or exposed to drugs prenatally)
Heeling Allies Assistance Dogs (mental health service dogs, emotional support dogs, and skilled companion dogs enrich the lives of qualified individuals living with certain psychological, neurological and developmental impairments)
Little Angels Service Dogs (psychiatric service dogs, specially trained to work with veterans with PTSD)
Love on a Leash (therapy pets)
New Horizons Service Dogs
New Life Mobility Assistance (Appalachian State University)
Paws With a Cause Currently 40% of applicants request a PAWS Seizure Response dog. PAWS’ specially designed temperament test identifies if a dog is most suitable to be a Service, Hearing, Seizure Response or Service Dog for Children with Autism.
Pet Partners (therapy animals)
Pets for Patriots, companion pet adoption for U.S. military veterans. The Wet Nose Blog: Adoption stories.
Prisoners and Animals Working for Success (P.A.W.S.) , a program of the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility. (See Working for a Second Chance (Working Like Dogs, 12-11-15)
Pet Partners established the Therapy Animal Program in 1990, its goal being to establish rigorous standards for both animals and their human handlers -- to ensure safe and effective therapy animal visits in the community
The Pets for Elderly Foundation (provides companionship to senior individuals through pet ownership, while saving the lives of companion animals in shelters)
Service Dog Trainers
Shore Service Dogs, Inc.
Working Like Dogs (a resource for people around the world with working dogs and assistance dogs)
West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc.
Seniors and Pets (AgingInPlace, National Council for Aging Care). "Those who work caring for the elderly say that pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming the pet, and offer a way to feel needed and connect with the world. Pet therapy can also help with Alzheimer’s Sundowners Syndrome. Nighttime can be very confusing and disorienting for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. This is when some Alzheimer’s patients try to run away or leave their home. A pet can prevent this issue by keeping those with Alzheimer’s connected and occupied."
Let me know if I've missed anything or if you have comments.
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Stories and articles about assistance dogs

What is the difference between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog (Off Leash Dog Training)

A Complete Guide to Service, Therapy and Emotional Support Dogs (Friendship Circle Special Needs Resource Blog, 5-23-13) "The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2011 defines service dogs as those trained to do work directly related to a person’s disability. Emotional support animals and dogs used as crime deterrents are excluded from this definition. A service dog is expected to accompany a person with a disability at all times." Most service dogs receive training in one of the following areas (described in this article, with links to where to find each type of dog):
--- Mobility assistance
--- Medical response (seizures, diabetes, severe allergies)
---Signal (hearing impairment)
---Guide (visual impairment)
--- Autism assistance
---Psychiatric assistance
There are also
---Therapy dogs
--- Emotional support/companion animals
Frequently asked questions about Medical Assistance & Diabetic Alert Dogs (Dogs4Diabetics) For example: Medical Assistance Dogs are service dogs that have been trained to respond to an identifiable element that is available to their senses in order to provide support to their handler, allowing the handler to address some aspect of that medical condition. Diabetic Alert Assistance Dogs are a specific type of Medical Assistance Dog that has been trained to use their highly sensitive scent capabilities to identify the changes in blood chemistry that occur during rapid changes in blood sugar levels. Medical Response Dogs are another type of Medical Assistance Dog that has been trained to assist persons based on recognition of symptoms pertaining to a specific medical condition.

New ADA Service Animal Definition July 23, 2010 (IAADP)

Federal Service Dog Law in Plain English (Kea Grace, Anything Pawsable, News and more for service and working dogs, 7-10-13) Many helpful and interesting articles on this site.

Partners in Independence (short film about assistance dogs)

Assistance Dog Tasks (Joan Froling, Sterling Service Dogs, 10-29-2003) Guide dog tasks (described in detail) include avoiding obstacles, signaling changes in elevation, locating objects on command, retrieving dropped objects, etc., and some are being trained for dual impairments, working with deaf blind students or mobility impaired blind students, for example. Hearing dog tasks are trained to alert their human partners by touch (a nose nudge or pawing) to various sounds at home or outside, including a child crying, a knock at the door, a fire alarm, etc. Service dogs receive six months to a year of training, and some teams master up to 50 different tasks. "A number of the traditional tasks listed [in the article] are proving useful to individuals with hidden disabilities such as a seizure disorder, a psychiatric disorder, a potentially life threatening medical problem or conditions which cause chronic pain." Some tasks help individuals "conserve energy, reduce or avoid pain, minimize dependency on loved ones, prevent injuries or get help in a crisis." Froling lists various retrieve-based tasks, carrying-based tasks, deposit-based tasks, tug-based tasks (such as helping remove shoes and socks), nose-nudge-based tasks (such as nudging shut a dryer door), paw-based tasks (such as calling 911 on a K-9 rescue phone), bracing-based tasks (such as steadying partner getting in and out of bathtub), harness-based tasks (mobility assistance).

Remember For Me – The Alzheimer’s Aid Dogs (Myrna Shiboleth, Kings Valley Collies)

Assistance Dogs: Learning New Tricks for Centuries (Jennie Cohen, History in the Headlines, 8-8-11)

Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook

Turning Your Pet Into a Therapy Dog (Jane E. Brody, NY Times 2-29-16) Jane Brody signed up her dog, Max, to be a therapy dog. "Therapy pets differ from service animals like those that guide the blind, detect impending health crises for people with epilepsy or diabetes, or stimulate learning for children with autism or cerebral palsy. Pet therapy most often involves privately owned animals – usually dogs, but also cats, rabbits, even kangaroos, birds, fish and reptiles – that their owners take to facilities to enhance the well-being of temporary or permanent residents. Thus, in addition to relieving the monotony of a hospital stay or entertaining residents in a nursing home, Max might visit a school where young children wary of reading aloud will happily read to a dog that does not care about mistakes."

Pets Allowed (Patricia Marx, New Yorker, 10-20-14) There’s a lot of confusion about what emotional-support animals can legally do. People with genuine impairments who depend on actual service animals get annoyed at what people with "emotional support animals" try to do. Service dogs are allowed to go anywhere. They are trained to perform specific tasks. An emotional-support animal (E.S.A.) "is defined by the government as an untrained companion of any species that provides solace to someone with a disability, such as anxiety or depression." Their rights are more limited.

Adopt A Retired Military Working Dogs (MWD) (Saveavet.org)

International Dog Assistance Week (IADW)

Troops betrayed as Army dumps hundreds of heroic war dogs (Maureen Callahan, NY Post, 2-14-16) Daniel, who doesn’t want to use his real name because he’s on active duty, is one of at least 200 military handlers whose dogs were secretly dumped out to civilians by K2 Solutions in February 2014, a Post investigation has found. It’s a scandal that continues to this day, with hundreds of handlers still searching for their dogs — and the Army, the Pentagon and K2 Solutions covering up what happened, and what may still be happening.
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Books about assistance dogs

When you buy a book from Amazon after following one of these links, this site earns a small commission.
Teamwork: A Dog Training Manual for People with Disabilities, Book 1 by Stewart Nordensson and Lydia Kelley
Teamwork II by Stewart Nordensson and Lydia Kelley
PTSD and Service Dogs: A Training Guide for Sufferers by Rick and Heather Dillender

Chelsea: The Story of a Signal Dog by Paul Ogden
Partners in Independence: A Success Story of Dogs and the Disabled by Ed and Toni Eames
Lend Me an Ear: Temperament, Selection and Training of the Hearing Ear Dog by Martha Hoffman
Life on Wheels by Gary Karp
Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence by John Hockenberry
Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto
Training Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog by Katie Gonzalez
Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled by Nancy Mairs
Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook by Marcie Davis
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  1. July 21, 2016 5:01 PM EDT
    Flying to DC on Southwest (and being diverted from DCA to Dulles in a thunderstorm and then being flown from Dulles to DCA (!), I sat next to a Marine who trains dogs (and their handlers) for rescue and other work (such as search) at Quantico. He'd been in Texas for a month's training, and missed his own dog, a Belgian Malinois. Here are some stories about these FBI dogs, or K9s:
    The quiet professionals: Training the FBI's tactical elite by Gina Cavallaro. This story about dogs trained to serve on Hostage Rescue Teams (HRTs) gives some of the flavor of what my seatmate talked about. He kept mentioning different bite types and I realized that some bites are to attack and some are to grab and rescue, but I can't remember the correct terminology. If someone else does, please comment!
    FBI Working Dogs (FBI video and transcript). The Police Unit's working dogs train continuously to detect thousands of explosive combinations and protect FBI facilities.
    Finding Solace: FBI Crisis Response Canines Help Victims Cope With Tragedy (FBI News, 7-15-16)The FBI's Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Team, sent to San Bernardino, CA, after a mass terrorist shooting there, relied on two English Labrador Retrievers for help providing relief and comfort to survivors.
    - PM
  2. March 15, 2017 4:26 PM EDT
    My cousin suffers from epilepsy and is trying to get a service dog to help her. It's good to know that a service dog is expected to accompany its person at all times. Another thing to consider is to make sure you have the right equipment for your service animal. That way, they can be happy and healthy. https://www.seizuredog.co/services-events.html
    - Sarah Smith
  3. May 26, 2017 2:22 PM EDT
    Therapy dogs who provide end-of-life help for humans
    ---Therapy dogs help ease final days for hospice patients (Jennifer Moody, Alaska Dispatch News, 1-24-14)
    ---A Day in the Life of JJ, the Therapy Dog (Samaritan Health Services).
    ---JJ, Hospice Therapy Dog (his Facebook page) ---On Dogs and Dying: Inspirational Stories From Hospice Hounds by Michelle Rivera
    ---Therapy dog provides comfort to hospice patients (David Caddell, AnnArbor.com 4-16-12)
    ---Project Canine (therapy dog training)
    - Pat McNees
  4. October 8, 2018 4:19 PM EDT
    Therapy dogs can spread superbugs to kids, hospital finds (Mike Stobbe, AP, 10-5-18) Therapy dogs can bring more than joy and comfort to hospitalized kids. They can also bring stubborn germs. Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore were suspicious that the dogs might pose an infection risk to patients with weakened immune systems....They discovered that kids who spent more time with the dogs had a 6 times greater chance of coming away with superbug bacteria than kids who spent less time with the animals. But the study also found that washing the dogs before visits and using special wipes while they’re in the hospital took away the risk of spreading that bacteria....The researchers think the dogs were generally clean of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria) when they first came to the hospital, but picked it up from patients or others while they were there, said one of the authors, Meghan Davis.
    - PM