13 Organizations to Help Your Family Get a Service Dog for Your Child

Seizures, diabetes, autism, deaf, blind - all are very scary terms to have said in the same sentence with your child’s name; but one thing that can help you rest easier as parents is to know your child has a trained service, seeing or hearing dog nearby to alert and help your child with their illness or disability.  A service dog can help them, and you do more and be more free, yet safe, while having a furry companion as a constant friend and second set of eyes to watch over your little loved one.  The below resources are focused on service dogs for those with anything from seizures to autism to diabetes and others, with the goal of enabling the child or adult to go about their daily lives with a constant companion to help navigate their new lives.

Americans with Disabilities Act - www.ada.gov - This website is hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and is full of information about the laws and regulations as well as enforcement and news on the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Great resource to ensure you know your rights, especially with having a service dog - where they can go with you, and if anyone challenges you, the law can be used to support you.

Assistance Dogs International - Assistancedogsinternational.org - is a non-profit organization that is a coalition of organizations that continually seeks to improve standards of service dogs in fields such as training, placement, utilization, staff and volunteer education and educating the public.  They also have an extensive accreditation program.  You can search their list of accredited programs and find one in your area.  They have regional chapters in North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, and Asia.  Another key grouping of information is their access laws for those with assistance dogs so that people can become educated on what their rights are when in public with their assistance dogs.  

Service Dog Central - Servicedogcentral.org - This organization is a community of service dog partners and trainers who combine their knowledge and expertise with a focus on providing the latest, most accurate, most useful information on service dogs.  The website has information on service dog laws, disability resources, how to find a service dog and a community forum.

Epilepsy Foundation - http://www.epilepsy.com/get-help/staying-safe/seizure-dogs - This Foundation is a huge source of information on seizures to include looking for seizure dogs.  The website link takes you to the page describing what type of seizure dogs there are, resources to acquire them, related links on general rights for individuals with service animals and more.  They also have a 24/7 helpline at 1-800-332-1000 or en Espanol 1-866-748-8008. The Foundation has a page http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy-seizures-247-helpline-resources where you can search for local foundations and other resources for finding a seizure dog, finding a doctor and patient assistance programs for medication assistance.  

Canine Partners for Life - k94life.org - This organization is a non-profit dedicated to training service dogs, home companion dogs, and residential companion dogs to assist individuals who have a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities.  They are accredited by Assistance Dogs International and located in Cochranville, PA.  They train each dog for two years to meet the specific needs of their human partner, then train the dog and its partner to work together as a team.  CPL trains traditional service dogs, seizure alert dogs, cardiac alert dogs, diabetes alert dogs, and companion dogs. Of note: for their seizure alert program, the applicant must be 12 years or older. 

4 Paws for Ability - 4pawsforability.org - This organization is focused on providing service dogs to children worldwide no matter their disability.  They have the ability to provide autism assistance dogs, diabetic alert dogs, FASD (Fetal alcohol spectrum)/Drug Exposure Assistance Dogs, Hearing Ear Dogs, Mobility Assistance Dogs, Multipurpose Assistance Dogs, Seizure Assistance Dogs, and dogs for Veterans.  Currently, they are located in Xenia, Ohio but also have a new location in Anchorage, Alaska.  4Paws also has foreign internships where they have brought foreign organizations to train with them in an effort to enable children and others in need in foreign countries to also benefit from 4Paws training and capability. 

Paws4People Foundation - paws4people.org - The focus of this organization is using dogs as a means to help people to include educating and empowering people to utilize Assistance Dogs to transform their lives.  They specialize in training customized Assistance Dogs for children and adolescents with physical, neurological, psychiatric, or emotional disabilities; and Veterans and active-duty Service Members with Chronic/Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).  They also have a paws4vets program that specializes in placing Psychiatric Service Dogs with Veterans or Active-Duty Service Members who are living with psychiatric or emotional difficulties as a result of PTSD, TBI, and/or MST.  Their specialty is in uncommon demographics to include: children under 14 years old, persons who have experienced sexual trauma, persons living with Moral Injury, First Responders, and Therapy professional utilizing Facility Dogs.  Uniquely, this foundation also works with several prisons to teach the prisoners to handle and train assistance dogs (paws4prisons program), they also utilize the foundation’s paws4seniors volunteers to visit nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, hospitals, geriatric hospitals, and Hospices with their certified Social-Therapy dogs.  They created a “new” type of Assistance Dog - the Educational Assistance Dog where they use social-therapy certified dogs to visit schools where they assist students to accomplish specific Individual Education Plans.  The Foundation also has worked with University of North Carolina Wilmington to create the first and only comprehensive Assistance Dog Certificate Program where those who complete the certification are eligible to receive a paws4people foundation Facility Dog, custom-trained to utilize in their respective careers.  Paws4reading is another program within the foundation that focuses on improving literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered animal therapy teams as literacy mentors.  

Paws with a Cause - www.pawswithacause.org - this organization has been around since 1979 and has been focused on providing dogs to those with disabilities as well as increasing awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog Teams through education and advocacy. They specifically train hearing dogs, service dogs, seizure response dogs, and service dogs for children with autism. But they do not currently have the capability to train dogs to assist with PTSD, diabetes, blindness, psychiatric disabilities or emotional support. Paws is one of the only Assistance Dog organizations with its own research and development department that invents, designs, manufactures, and customizes each piece of equipment their clients need. They have also created their Paws Team Life Cycle - dog breeding, foster puppy raising, client application and needs assessment, customized dog training, team training and certification, team support and recertification where a client may apply for a successor dog as their current dog ages. Of note, the individual applying for a service or seizure response dog must be 14 years old, for a hearing dog they must be 18 years old, and a child with autism must be between 4-12 years old. 

Assistance Dogs of the West - www.assistancedogsofthewest.org - This organization has placed dogs with individuals and family for support for mobility impairments, autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, seizure disorders, diabetes, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders.  Uniquely, they also have a program for courthouse dogs which specifically work with crime victims, predominately children, in helping to foster a safer and more comfortable environment.  These dogs also provide stress relief and cuddly empathy on the job to the special investigators, victims’ advocates, prosecutors, district attorneys and defense attorneys who are involved in the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and alleged crimes against children. Warrior Canine Connection teaches warriors with combat injuries how to train service dogs for other veterans with disabilities.  ADW is also the first service dog agency in the U.S. to work with the Veterans’ Court Program and is partnered with the national WCC at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.  Veteran recipients of ADW dogs have served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  One program that differs from other assistance dog organizations is their Owner/Self-Trainer programs where the owner of a dog and the dog can be brought in for evaluation and training (minimum of 6 months of training and the dog being able to perform a minimum of 3 tasks to offset the owner’s disability).  If you are in New Mexico, this organization has after school classes for children 8 years and older where they are taught to train dogs to help people.  Of note, this organization sometimes places dogs on a case-by-case basis to individuals out of state, except for diabetic alert dogs, for these they only accept applications for in-state resident individuals.  They will place a dog with a child 5 years and older.  

Saint Francis Service Dogs - www.saintfrancisdogs.org - A non-profit whose sole purpose is to assist children and adults with disabilities become more independent and self-sufficient through partnership with a professionally trained service dog.  Their programs include service dogs (support for people with a disability), veteran dogs, facility dogs (for healthcare, courtroom, or education settings), training, puppy raisers, prison pups (partnering with Bland Correctional Center), breeders, reading program, and career change dogs (placing those not completing the training as pets in loving homes).

Canines for Disabled Kids - Caninesforkids.org - This organization works specifically with families with children 18 years and younger. Their goal is to support the creation of child-canine service teams to promote independence and social awareness.  Service dogs include those trained for autism/social service dogs, dogs for psychiatric disabilities, guide dogs, hearing dogs, medical/seizure alert dogs, therapy dogs, traditional/mobility service dogs, walker or balance dogs.  They also host and organize a number of different educational and fundraising events.

Pathways to Hope - www.pathwaystohope.org - This organization provides service dogs to Autistic children as well as therapy dogs for the healthcare (hospitals, assisted living, etc) and educational (library reading, etc) facilities. They also work with several California jails and prisons to have inmates train dogs as well as partnering with probation departments for juveniles to learn how to train and take care of dogs.  

Fidos for Freedom - www.fidosforfreedom.org - This organization focuses on training dogs to assist adults with hearing loss and/or mobility issues.  They also train assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD and as part of a literacy program for elementary school children.  Another unique mission is to provide a junior volunteer program which allows younger volunteers the ability to learn how to train dogs and work with physically challenged individuals while earning community service hours. The have a therapy program which allows volunteers to (going through Fidos’ training courses to become a therapy dog) bring their own dogs to various facilities as therapy dogs - there is also a special designation of dogless handlers if you want to volunteer but do not have a dog of your own, you can be the handler for another dog who’s owner has two or more dogs in the program.  Facilities where Fidos therapy dogs are welcome include autistic adult day care, nursing homes, local hospitals, hospice, family support centers like the Ronald McDonald House and Johns Hopkins Children’s House, Special Needs Children’s School, Cancer Center, DEAR program (Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers), and demonstrations, information booths and fund raisers for Fidos.  Under links and resources they have a number of great resources for disabilities and service dogs. 

The above list is by far not even close to listing even a small amount of service dog organizations in the U.S. let alone the world.  However, the top two organizations above (Assistance Dogs International and Service Dog Central) have websites where you can look up, by your location, other organizations that might be able to meet your needs.