© Courtesy of America’s VetDogs
In the early 2000s, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, founded in 1946, recognized a shift within the assistance dog industry that brought a new era of service dogs and their important work to the forefront. As the Guide Dog Foundation was established following World War II and provided guide dogs to veterans who had lost their vision due to their service, making the move to provide veterans with ‘service dogs’ came naturally.
The team used its connections to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and other veteran organizations across the country to recruit applicants for service dogs. At the time, veterans with disabilities caused by their service during the Iraq War and other conflicts began to filter through the VA system. This influx of veterans who needed additional resources prompted the Foundation to dedicate a unique entity for service dogs for veterans. America’s VetDogs was founded in 2003.
Originally operating as a program of the Guide Dog Foundation, America’s VetDogs became its own 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2007. Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs were the first nonprofits in the U.S. to receive dual accreditation from the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) and Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the leading accreditation agencies in the world.
Since then, the services of America’s VetDogs have expanded to provide life-changing and life-saving dogs and services to disabled veterans, active-duty personnel, and first responders. America’s VetDogs welcomes individuals into its community and supports them with an uncompromised commitment to excellence, from highly empathetic and certified trainers to meticulously constructed curriculum delivered during a two-week, in-residence training program at its Long Island campus followed by a lifetime of aftercare support. It costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog, but services are always free to the individuals served.
The dogs trained by America’s VetDogs are taught specialized tasks and skills such as: rest, retrieve dropped items, positional cues to extend their handler’s personal space when in a crowded setting, counterbalance, nightmare interruption, press buttons to summon help and to open doors, seizure response, hearing dog tasks, walk alongside a wheelchair or power scooter, and more. Each task and skill are a part of carefully structured programs that include service dogs, guide dogs, PTSD service dogs, seizure response dogs, military facility dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs for military sexual trauma.
A hallmark of America’s VetDogs is the meticulous matching process to ensure that each program participant is matched with the dog that best suits that person’s mobility, personality, lifestyle, and physical and emotional needs. The distinct needs of disabled veterans, active-duty personnel, and first responders are often complicated with multiple comorbidities and require an integrated approach that can incorporate guide, service, hearing, PTSD, and other specialized training. No organization in the nation provides the depth and breadth of personalized services offered by America’s VetDogs, delivering the highest quality experience to those who served our nation with honor.
“The story of America’s VetDogs’ 20th anniversary is a compilation of the inspiration and courage of the disabled veterans, active-duty personnel, and first responders we serve; our extraordinary dogs who change and save lives; and the generosity of thousands of caring volunteers, donors, and staff,” said John Miller, president and CEO, America’s VetDogs. “We are honored to serve so many people who have given so much of themselves for our nation, and we look forward to helping more of these heroes Live Without Boundaries.”
In 2018, awareness of America’s VetDogs went global after the placement of service dog Sully with former President George H.W. Bush. Although Sully H.W. Bush’s time with the President was short, the impact on the organization was enduring. This summer, America’s VetDogs will place its 1,000th assistance dog, helping individuals living in all 50 states, Washington, DC; Puerto Rico; and beyond.
Learn how to apply, volunteer, or donate at VetDogs.org/heroes
The service dog programs of America’s VetDogs were created to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence to veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders with disabilities, allowing them to once again live with pride and self-reliance.