America’s VetDogs Offers Free Program for Nation’s Disabled Heroes

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© 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. The Guide Dog Foundation was established following World War II and had always provided guide dogs to veterans who had lost their vision due to their service, so making the move to provide veterans with specially trained ‘service dogs’ came naturally.

The team used its connections to 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 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and other conflicts began to filter through the VA system. This influx of veterans needing additional resources prompted the Foundation to dedicate a unique entity for service dogs for veterans, and 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 2006-2007. Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs were the first nonprofits in the nation to receive dual accreditation from the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) and Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the leading accreditation agencies in the world.

In 2018, awareness of America’s VetDogs went global after the placement of service dog Sully H.W. Bush with former President George H.W. Bush (Sully is currently a facility dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center). Since then, the services of America’s VetDogs have expanded to provide more than 1,000 life-saving service dogs, free of charge, to veterans, active-duty military, and first responders with service-related physical and emotional disabilities, such as PTSD. America’s VetDogs welcomes individuals from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and beyond. More than 65 America’s VetDogs program graduates call Texas their home.

The organization supports the individuals it serves with an uncompromised commitment to excellence, from highly empathetic and certified trainers to its carefully constructed curriculum delivered during a two-week, in-residence training program at its Long Island, New York 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, including travel to and from New York for training, are always provided at no charge.

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 many more. Each task and skill are a part of carefully structured programs that include mobility service dogs, guide dogs, PTSD service dogs, hearing dogs, seizure response dogs, and facility dogs to provide animal-assisted therapy in aligned group settings.

A hallmark of America’s VetDogs programs is its meticulous matching process to ensure that each program participant is matched with the dog that best suits a person’s mobility, personality, lifestyle, physical, and emotional needs. The distinct needs of people served by America’s VetDogs are often complicated with multiple health issues and require an integrated approach that can incorporate some combination of guide, service, hearing, PTSD, and other specialized cross-training.

“The story of America’s VetDogs 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.”

Learn how to Apply, Volunteer, or Donate at VetDogs.org/Texas

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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.

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