We’ve heard the research, and we’ve heard the personal testimonials. Service dogs offer countless benefits to those with disabilities including autism. But the entire process can be very difficult and sometimes comes with a hefty price tag.
You may have seen offers that promise completed training in less than a year or training for an existing pet. Although it sounds very tempting, you probably want to steer clear of these offers. The amount of time and work required to instill obedience simply cannot be done in this time frame. Also, use caution with resources like Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc. Reputable businesses/organizations are often in high demand and have no need to advertise.
Instead, here are some tips to help guide you when getting a service dog:
1. Check out Assistance Dog International. This organization requires all of its members to adhere to certain standards of training, placement, and utilization of assistance dogs. Some requirements include initial 6 month follow ups, annual followups thereafter, humane methods of animal treatment, ethical practices, working well with clients and meeting their needs, and complying to legal regulations. Businesses who aren’t members of this organization should be looked at more closely.
2. Review application processes thoroughly. Due to high demand, service dogs are very limited. Those companies who offer less than a year should be treated with skepticism. Questionnaires typically ask for the age of the child, who will be trained, whether there are other pets in the home, what support the child may need, and current therapies in place. Questions about payment should not be included, though general costs and fundraising are often brought up.
3. Obtain referrals. Talk to people in your area. You can often ask the business for families you can contact for references and feedback. This is your chance to ask questions about the application process, training, follow ups, and their overall experience.
4. Contact IRS and BBB. Many organizations claim to operate as nonprofits and this can be verified by contacting the IRS. This may seem odd to do, but if they are lying about that, they are likely being dishonest about other things as well. You can look into reviews on BBB and also Yelp.
5. Research names and credentials of trainers and volunteers. Check to see employees are certified trainers to confirm you will be receiving quality training.
6. Become knowledgable about the breed. Service dogs for autistic individuals are often calm-mannered, family-friendly breeds; typically Golden Retrievers, Labradors, or a mix of the two. Do some research on your own to be more familiar with the type of dog. You should also ask where they get the dogs from and why they chose the specific breed.
7. Make a contract. This is a service that will take some time, so it’s best to have a contract that outlines exactly what services you will be receiving from the business or organization. You should not send money until the contract has been signed unless there is a small registration fee.
Service dogs can provide so many advantages but must be done in the right away to get all the benefits. It can be quite an overwhelming process but with these 7 steps you can find a great organization that will help match you with just the right dog.
Written by Raiza Belarmino