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According to the Americans with Disability Act, a service dog is one that has undergone training to carry out tasks on behalf of a disabled person.
These canines undergo specialized training and this coupled with other costs can make them quite pricey.
A good service dog can cost upwards of $20,000 but it’s worth its weight in gold.
They are costly because a lot of effort and expertise is used in breeding and training them.
Luckily, there are lots of nonprofits that offer these service dogs at no cost.
The nonprofits fundraise to cover their expenses to ensure they keep giving away service dogs at no cost.
Some of the organizations use a pay-it-forward model which encourages beneficiaries to donate something whenever they can afford to.
Some of these organizations charge tens of thousands of dollars but some will give you the service dog at no fee.
In this guide, we reveal the ABCs of getting a service dog for free.
Types of Service Dogs That You Can Get For Free
Service dogs come in their numbers. Here’s a list of the ones available for free.
A. Hearing dogs
As the name suggests, hearing dogs specialize in giving aid to the deaf or those with a wide range of hearing impairments.
They are trained to inform their owners of doorbells, fire alarms, ringing phones, knock on the door, and alarm clocks.
B. Mobile Assistance
People with illnesses such as arthritis, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy require help to carry out simple daily tasks. This is where mobility support doggies come in.
They help the sick retrieve objects, press automatic door buttons, open doors, and switch on lights.
C. Guide Dogs
These are pretty common and their main job is to help blind and low-vision individuals to navigate their world.
D. Diabetic Alert Dogs
Trained to detect blood sugar highs and lows, diabetic alert dogs help their owners test their blood when things get out of the normal range and act accordingly.
How does one qualify for a free service dog?
Service dogs are special and not everyone qualifies for them.
Even those with various illnesses and disorders are not in a position to access a service dog. You must fulfill the following:
- Be 14 years and older
- Have a genuine disability that makes it impossible to carry out life-important tasks by yourself. The condition should be considered as “debilitating” and must fall under the ADA’s list of mental or physical disabilities.
- Get a letter from a reputable healthcare professional confirming that you have a disability.
- Have a stable home
- Learn how to interact with the service dog
- Have the ability to control and manage the doggie independently
- Provide proof of low or no income
How can I get my dog trained as a service dog for free?
Sometimes getting an already trained dog for free is difficult.
In such a case, you can give your dog to the pros to be turned into a service dog.
To cut down on costs, you can train the dog yourself. The ADA allows handlers to train their dogs to become service pets.
However, the process is time-consuming, challenging, and not guaranteed.
To be safe, work with certified professional dog trainers. Most of them are rather costly but if you do your homework well, you will get affordable ones.
You can also approach the organizations below and give your dog over to be trained for free. If he meets all their requirements, you may be lucky.
Where to get service dogs for free
Paws With a Cause trains their service dogs to help people with a physical disability affecting one or both of their limbs.
These dogs will help to be more independent by assisting them with tasks like opening doors, pulling their wheelchair, switching lights on and off, picking up objects, etc.
Some of the dogs are even trained to act as a brace if the person falls and thereby help them get back up.
This organization also has hearing dogs that are specifically trained to assist deaf people.
These dogs will respond to smoke alarms, children crying, doorbells, and lots of other sounds.
Hearing dogs nudge their own to alert them of the noise and they then lead them to the source.
Some dogs are even trained to understand sign language which can come in handy for non-verbal deaf people.
As the name may suggest, the International Hearing Dog Inc. exists solely to train service dogs for the deaf and those with hearing loss.
Special dogs are selected and then trained to hear and alert their owner of sounds in their immediate environment.
This organization does more than just train dogs though—they also match dogs to their handlers to make it easy for both the dog and the handler.
They also provide lifetime support in case the deaf person needs any assistance with their service dog.
Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation specializes in training German Shepherds service dogs.
They pick German Shepherds that are bred from Bavarian stock to ensure the dogs have the ideal temperament, stability, and intelligence needed to keep their handlers safe.
If you are visually impaired or blind, these are the kind of service dogs you need.
The process of getting the dog entails a stringent process meant to match you with the perfect dog.
Additionally, you will get full support, which includes an annual site visit just to make sure everything is fine.
The Guide Dog foundation exists to make life easier for the visually impaired through the provision of service dogs.
The foundation gives labradors and golden retrievers. However, it is one of the few organizations that also has hypoallergenic poodles which are perfect for those who are allergic to dogs.
Once you apply and are approved for a free service dog, you also automatically join the foundation’s community where you will receive support from certified trainers.
Guide Dogs of America is located in Los Angeles and they breed and train guide dogs for visually impaired and blind persons in the USA and Canada.
They especially focus on helping children with autism and veterans.
They even have facility dogs which are placed in courtrooms, schools, and hospitals.
In addition to the day-to-day assistance, these service and facility dogs will help boost the person’s confidence which helps them to lead a normal life.
This organization doesn’t necessarily provide free service dogs but they provide financial aid to disabled people who are constrained financially but need to purchase a service dog.
In addition to funding dog placements, they also give grants to support any development and research effort towards improving service dog services.
Applicants are given a voucher which they can then redeem at Assistance Dog United Campaign approved centers.
Secrets that you can Leverage To Get Service Dogs for Fee
Getting a free service dog is a tall order.
To position yourself for success, you want to be open-minded when it comes to the breed of choice.
Sure, Labrador and Golden retrievers are excellent service dogs but Samoyeds and Pitbulls are just as great.
Be willing to choose any available breed.
Additionally, be sure to have legit documents proving your disability, income, state of home, and any other requirement.
Finally, apply for more than one organization for a better chance at having a service dog.
Pitfalls to avoid when looking for a free service dog
Scammers have flooded the service dog market. If you are not careful, you will meet the wrong people that will fleece your cash.
Watch out for the following:
- People that promise to bring a service dog to you. Genuine organizations allow you to be a part of the training process of the doggie.
- Online businesses that draft a recommendation letter in minutes for pay. Service dog providers don’t accept these letters easily.
- Beware of businessmen that trick you into offering you an emotional dog or a service pet rather than a service dog.
If you have challenges with mobility or are disabled in any other way, a service dog will make your life much easier.
With a service dog, you will get around the house without relying on the help of others and you can even go about outside and continue with your life as normal.
The trick is to get a good service dog that has been specially trained to take care of the challenges you face.