Colleen Demling partnered with the San Diego Armed Services YMCA to help develop and maintain their Therapy Dog Program and has consulted with numerous private clients on their Service and Emotional Support Dog training needs. She says people might be surprised to learn not all organizations that provide service dogs are created equal.
“There is really no clearing house to start your search for a service dog,” Demling explains. “There are a lot of organizations popping up, trying to take a bit of the government money available for programs geared towards wounded warriors or civilians who have PTSD.”
Two sites where people can get educated and start the search on options comparing organizations:
“I recommend calling one of these organizations and asking for guidance,” Demling says. “They are well-respected organizations so they are probably going to know other well-respected organizations that are training dogs for PTSD and other disabilities.”
Dealing says don’t be afraid to look into a service animal or think you won’t quality.
“The only requirement for a dog to become a service dog is for a person to have a disability as defined by the ADA and the dog has a skill that is taught that directly assists that disability,” Demling explains.
If you have a minor disability, you may be able to train the dog yourself but most people will seek help of larger organizations, which makes it important to check first with the two groups mentioned above. Any organization you work with should provide extensive training of at least a week with the dog either at your home or the group’s site.
“It allows the organization to give you the skill set to work with the dog and to make sure there is a personality match,” Demling explains. “They should help you problem-solve any difficulties you might have as they transfer the dog to you—they are hands-on, eyes-on to fix it.”
The cost of being paired with a service dog should be nominal or nonexistent.
“The larger non-profit organizations are funded independently through grants and fundraisers,” Demling says. “With a for-profit group, they will give you a service dog but will charge you $6,000. There are organizations that are chasing the money first and trying to help the person second.”