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SERVICE DOGS


PAWS Service Dogs are custom-trained to assist people with physical disabilities affecting one or more limbs. Service Dogs can enhance a person’s independence by helping with tasks such as pulling a wheelchair, opening doors, turning light switches on/off or picking up objects as small as a dime. If a client falls, the dog can even act as a brace to help them up.

PAWS has trained Service Dogs to assist people who have Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Rheumatoidal Degeneration, ALS, Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries and many other conditions affecting a person’s mobility or strength.

In addition to performing tasks related to a physical disability, a PAWS Dog can also be trained to assist with tasks related to a seizure disorder or hearing loss.

 

Paws with a Cause

  • ASHLEY AND

    MAUI’S STORY


    Working together as

    a team through college

    READ

  • QUALIFICATION

    INFO


    Determine if you qualify for

    a PAWS Service Dog

    LEARN MORE

  • ASSISTANCE

    DOG FAQ


    Learn what to expect

    with a Service Dog

    LEARN MORE

  • REQUEST APP

    FOR A PAWS DOG


    Request an application

    for a PAWS Service Dog

    REQUEST

 

ASHLEY & MAUI’S STORY

 

“MAUI has saved me from that feeling of desperation. When I drop something now, it’s no big deal.”

Ashley, PAWS Service Dog Client

Paws with a Cause

 

Ashley is studying International Relations with a minor in Middle-Eastern Studies at Grand Valley State University. Her hope is to work with refugees and immigrants, teach English as a second language or work with students studying abroad at a university’s international center. She lives on campus so she can get the full college experience. And she has a PAWS Service Dog with her.

At 18 months old, Ashley was diagnosed with Dejerine-Sottas syndrome, a disease that causes loss of sensation and muscle mass and results in weakness of her limbs. Ashley always planned to go to college after high school, but didn’t feel anywhere close to being able to take care of herself while there. At home, just getting dressed took 45 minutes and drained her energy.

So she decided to apply for a PAWS Service Dog. “I told my parents this is something I need to do for myself,” Ashley said. “I was nervous about going to college and living on campus because my independence was limited. When I dropped something, I couldn’t pick it up because my spinal cord is fused. My parents supported me, understanding this was something I wanted to do.”

Ashley made it through a challenging freshman year while she waited for a PAWS Service Dog. Whenever she dropped a textbook, keys, phone or mittens, she had to ask someone to pick it up for her. “I really hated having to be in a situation where I had to interrupt someone to help me. It just gave them another reason to view people with disabilities as vulnerable and needy.” Ashley added, “There were many experiences like that. I was excited when I got MAUI because I knew I would never have to ask somebody to pick up my mittens again!”

Every day MAUI helps Ashley get in and out of bed, open a door or refrigerator, and pull off her clothing. Ashley says the biggest thing MAUI does is, “pick something up. She has saved me from that feeling of desperation. When I drop something now, it’s no big deal.”

Ashley’s advice to someone considering an Assistance Dog: “Don’t think you’re not disabled enough for a PAWS Dog. That was something blocking me. I can function without MAUI, I just don’t want to. It’s not you depending on a dog; it’s you and the dog working together as a team, even if it’s doing one big thing to make your life easier. It’s worth it.”



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Paws with a Cause

 

QUALIFICATION INFORMATION

To be eligible for a PAWS Service Dog, an individual must:

  • Be 14 years or older
  • Have a physical disability, debilitating chronic illness or neurological disorder affecting one or more limbs
    • If the dog is also trained for seizure tasks, an individual must have a minimum of one seizure per month
    • If the dog is also trained for hearing tasks, an individual must have a minimum of 30% bilateral hearing loss and be 18 years or older
  • Be physically and cognitively capable of participating in the training process, up to one hour a day
  • Be able to independently command and handle their Assistance Dog
  • Be able to meet the emotional, physical and financial needs of the Assistance Dog
  • Be in a stable home environment
  • Actively improve their quality of life and pursue independence with their Assistance Dog
  • Have no other dog in the home (can have other animals)
  • Live in an area serviced by a PAWS Field Rep (determined upon application)

If the applicant is younger than PAWS’ minimum age, visit www.assistancedogsinternational.org for a list of other ADI programs that may train for younger children.

While Paws With A Cause has established eligibility criterion for the types of Assistance Dogs we provide, we do not discriminate against any applicant based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, age, nationality, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service status or any other consideration as indicated by federal, state or local laws.

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Paws with a Cause

 

APPLICANT FAQ

What types of dogs does PAWS use?
How does PAWS get the dogs they train to be Assistance Dogs?
Can PAWS train a client’s own dog to be their Assistance Dog?

Can a PAWS Dog alert me to oncoming seizures or provide support while I’m walking?
What tasks are PAWS Dogs trained to do?
What tasks are PAWS Dogs NOT trained to do?
Who is eligible to apply for a PAWS Dog?
What are the age requirements to apply?
How much does it cost?
How long is the application process?
I completed the application process, but haven’t been matched to a dog yet. Why?
What if I have other pets in my home?
How old are the dogs when the clients receive them?
What are the responsibilities of the client who receives a PAWS Assistance Dog?
Can Assistance Dogs live in apartments and go in public places?

What types of dogs does PAWS use?

PAWS Service Dogs, Seizure Response Dogs and Service Dogs for Children with Autism are primarily Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two breeds. PAWS Hearing Dogs may be Retrievers or small breed dogs. Occasionally, PAWS has Poodles or Poodle mixes reserved for clients in need of a hypo-allergenic dog. All dogs must pass specialized health and temperament screenings to be accepted into training.

 

How does PAWS get the dogs they train to be Assistance Dogs?

Some of our dogs are donated by private individuals or breeders, while others come from our own limited breeding program. PAWS makes every attempt to rescue dogs from animal shelters for training when qualified dogs are available.

 

Can PAWS train a client’s own dog to be their Assistance Dog?

Occasionally a client’s own dog can be trained as their Assistance Dog. The dog must be between 16 - 36 months of age, of an approved breed and be able to pass specialized health and temperament screenings to enter the program. Due to the highly specialized nature of Assistance Dog work, very few pet dogs have the capacity to successfully complete the program.

 

Can a PAWS Dog alert me to oncoming seizures or provide support while I’m walking?

We do not train dogs to predict seizures, only to respond to a seizure that is happening. PAWS does not train dogs to provide weight-bearing support while walking, but may train a dog to counter-balance for a client needing mobility assistance.


What tasks are PAWS Dogs trained to do?

PAWS Dogs have over 40 tasks they could be trained in, including retrieving and delivering dropped items, tugging to remove items of clothing and opening doors. Service Dogs may pull a lightweight manual wheelchair or turn lights on and off. Hearing Dogs primarily alert and orient clients to common sounds. Seizure Response Dogs respond to a client’s seizure by summoning help or providing stimulation. Service Dogs for Children with Autism act as a constant companion to a child to help them improve social, communication and life skills.

 

What tasks are PAWS Dogs NOT trained to do?

We do not train Guide Dogs for people who are blind, for diabetic alert/response, to anticipate or detect medical symptoms, for the primary benefit of emotional comfort, to recognize and/or manage undesirable human behavior, to provide supervision, navigation, or safety from environmental hazards, to respond aggressively, to provide personal protection or to assist with the management of mental illness as a primary condition.

 

Who is eligible to apply for a PAWS Dog?

People with a physical disability, hearing impairment, seizure disorder or a child with autism who can demonstrate that an Assistance Dog will enhance their independence or their quality of life are qualified to apply. 

PAWS can only accept a limited number of applications per year. Although many individuals with disabilities are eligible and in need of an Assistance Dog, PAWS will determine and select individuals where the tasks provided by PAWS’ highly trained dogs will be of the greatest benefit.

 

What are the age requirements to apply?

Individuals applying for a Service or Seizure Response Dog must be at least 14 years old with age appropriate cognitive ability. Those applying for a Hearing Dog must be 18 years or older. Families applying for a Service Dog for Children with Autism must have a child with autism between 4-12 years old: application must be received by 7th birthday; Needs Assessment completed by 9th birthday; placement prior to 12th birthday. 

 

How much does it cost?

The dog is provided at no cost to the client. However, PAWS needs to raise $30,000 to cover the cost of breeding, care, customized training and continued support of each team. The significant majority of funds raised by PAWS come from individual donors. PAWS also receives support from businesses, foundations and community groups (eg: AMVETS, Lions).

PAWS promotes a “pay it forward” culture. Once a client achieves certification, we encourage them to consider hosting a Personal Campaign to benefit another client still waiting for a PAWS Dog. We are happy to work with certified clients willing to fundraise on PAWS’ behalf, and have the tools to make it easy.

Accepted clients in the waiting pool for a PAWS Dog who wish to host a Personal Campaign for PAWS may do so. However, it is not a requirement to receive a PAWS Dog, nor will it help a waiting client get a dog more quickly.

For more information on giving to PAWS, click here.

 

How long is the application process?

From the time an application is received to the completion of the in-home Needs Assessment can be as long as 24 months. If a client is accepted into the program after the Needs Assessment, they will go into the pool of all clients waiting to be paired with a PAWS Dog. For all clients in the “waiting pool”, the search to find an appropriate dog begins right away. However, depending on the individual needs of the client, and the individual qualities of the dogs in training available, it may take another 1-4 years to find the right match.

 

I completed the application process, but haven’t been matched to a dog yet. Why?

Finding the right dog to match your specific needs, personality and environment is not an exact science. Many factors are taken into consideration, with the ultimate goal being to find the best dog to meet your unique needs. Also, not every dog successfully completes training; sometimes we must start the matching process over.

 

What if I have other pets in my home?

PAWS does place an Assistance Dog in homes that have cats, birds or other small caged pets. Effective September 1, 2012, no PAWS Assistance Dog will be placed in a home with any other dog, unless it is a retired PAWS Dog or working Assistance Dog from an Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation-accredited agency for someone else in the household. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home can interfere with the bonding and training process of the Assistance Dog Team.

 

How old are the dogs when the clients receive them?

Dogs are approximately 18-24 months old.

 

What are the responsibilities of the client who receives a PAWS Assistance Dog?

Clients must be able to follow through with the in-home and public (if applicable) training process with their local PAWS Field Representative. Clients must be committed to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the lifetime of the team and to providing for the well-being of the dog (veterinary care, proper grooming, exercise, etc.). It is advisable to research yearly veterinary, grooming and feeding costs in your specific area prior to applying for an Assistance Dog. Paws With A Cause provides lifetime training support for its teams.

 

Can Assistance Dogs live in apartments and go in public places?

Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees the right of a person with a qualifying disability to be accompanied by their individually trained Assistance Animal in public venues. The Fair Housing Act allows for trained Assistance Animals in apartments or other no-pet housing at no additional cost to the person with a disability. More information can be found at www.ada.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/title8.php

 

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