Getting a Service Animal: Consumer Considerations
Below are some commonly asked questions from people who are in need of a service animal; where to obtain one or where to get your own dog trained to be a service animal.
What should I be thinking about if I am getting a service animal?
Researching the field and examining your options are the best way to ensure that your choices for the service animal's appearance, disposition, and working style are compatible with your lifestyle and needs.
Why is the quality of a service animal trainer or program important?
High quality, individualized services from a trainer or program can help ensure that service animals are well-selected, well-trained and matched appropriately to handlers. Such services also help a handler to develop greater competency working with his or her service animal. These factors will contribute to the successful functioning of the handler and service animal in the home and in the community.
Are there standards for service animal trainers that ensure trainers are good?
There are no uniform standards or credentialing criteria applied to all service dog trainers. Generally, service animal trainers are self-taught or apprentice with someone else and need only a business license to train service animal. Anyone can claim to be a professional trainer. Some trainer organizations agree to follow minimum standards, but do not inspect or guarantee the quality of any program.
"Certification" of an animal or dog is offered by some trainers, but is not a legal requirement. Without standards for all trainers or all service animals, "certification" criteria varies from trainer to trainer and is not a guarantee of quality or predictability of animal behavior or performance.
Pet Partners' Professional Standards for Dog Trainers is an important book that offers guidelines for the professional dog trainer. It includes information on dog behavior, trainer skills and ethics, tools and equipment, and more. Download and print, or purchase a soft-bound copy of the book today!
What factors influence whether a service animal will help a person?
The success of a service animal as a healthcare intervention can be affected by:
• the competency of the trainer
• the competency of the animal
• the competency of the handler (the person with a disability who relies on the service animal)
• the ability of the community to welcome the service animal
Are service dogs appropriate for children?
Among the factors that should be carefully considered are:
• a person's disability-related needs
• ability to care for and manage the animal
• desire to have a service animal
See "Service Dogs for Children with Disabilities" for more information. Search our Service Animal Resource Directory . The profile display for each trainer will display the services they provide. Look for those that indicate that they will provide whether training for 'Children (based on maturity)'.
How does a person qualify for a service animal?
Trainers each establish their own qualifying criteria. Ask for a copy of the qualification criteria in writing. Some trainers require documentation of a particular degree of disability; others do not. Some trainers will not accept you unless you live alone or have no pets.
Recommendation: Don't give up if you do not qualify for one program – another trainer may have different requirements.
Do I have to provide medical or financial records when I apply?
Some trainers require medical and/or financial records. If you are uncomfortable with providing this information, find out:
• who will review it
• what qualifications the reviewer has to interpret the data
• how it will be used to determine your eligibility.
If confidentiality is a concern, you might request a written, signed guarantee that your private information will not be shared. Consult with a competent legal service provider for details about such a guarantee.
Is there any source of financial help for the costs associated with getting and keeping a service animal?
Some trainers have scholarship or financial assistance programs. Since service animals meet health needs, people should investigate whether their medical insurance or entitlement (Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits) will cover any of the costs. Civic and charitable organizations sometimes provide financial assistance. These organizations can include local:
• Chamber of Commerce
• Diagnosis-related Associations
• Alumni Associations
• Other resources
Network within your community and the resources listed on this web site to locate possible funding sources.
The Assistance Dog United Campaign (ADUC) provides financial assistance in the form of vouchers to individuals with disabilities seeking to obtain a service dog/assistance dog from a member program. Information about applying can be obtained by contacting ADUC directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have a service animal that needs medical care and you need financial assistance to pay the veterinary bill, there are some non-profit organizations that can help, including TechiePaws. More information is available at www.techiepaws.org.
Do I need a contract?
Verbal promises can be difficult to prove if a problem occurs. Contracts that assure you of confidentiality and other points listed here can help provide you with some security in this business process. An attorney who has experience in contract law is among the resources that can provide guidance to consumers and trainers.
I want to be involved with training a service animal, as a donor, a puppy raiser, or maybe as a trainer.
Because your name and your support will be associated with the training source, you will want to be informed. You will benefit from the same information as a person who is acquiring a service animal, as discussed on this web site. The questions and answers on this web page will help you to identify the issues that you want answers to before entering into a relationship with a trainer or program.