An Assistance Dog helps someone with a disability complete essential tasks so they can increase independence and improve their quality of life. By helping open doors, pick up objects, pull a wheelchair or alert them to sounds, barriers are broken down. The Assistance Dog acts as a constant companion and makes a person more approachable, allowing them to gain confidence while bringing peace of mind to their loved ones.
Paws With A Cause doesn’t limit itself to specific disabilities, but breeds and custom-trains Assistance Dogs for people with physical disabilities, hearing loss, seizures and autism. PAWS trains the following types of Assistance Dogs:
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.
Some of our dogs are donated by private individuals or breeders, while others come from our own strategic breeding program. PAWS makes every attempt to rescue dogs from animal shelters for training when qualified dogs are available.
Due to the highly specialized nature of Assistance Dog work, we do not consider a client's own dog for training.
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.
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.
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 (such as PTSD, etc.) as a primary condition.
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 from individuals who live in areas serviced by a PAWS Field Representative. 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.
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.
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 and AMVETS Auxiliaries, Lions and Lionesses, Order of the Eastern Star).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Typically, dogs are approximately 18-24 months old.
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 ongoing training support for its teams.
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
Our first question to a client is always, “What can a PAWS Dog do to help you become more independent?” That’s because we understand every disability is different, which is why each Assistance Dog is matched and custom-trained for a person’s unique needs.
To ensure an Assistance Dog can meet the needs of a client, it has to pass a specialized temperament test and comprehensive health screening to enter PAWS’ training program. The dog is matched to a client based on the person’s lifestyle, temperament and the physical characteristics required to complete the needed tasks.
Each PAWS trainer has ADI accreditation, the highest training standard in the industry. PAWS’ trainers even go a step further by trying to emulate a client’s physical movements, speech and characteristics so the dog recognizes the client’s needs before they even meet.
Once the dog is trained, PAWS brings the Assistance Dog to the client’s home. This allows the client to train with a PAWS Field Rep and learn how to work with their dog in the home, workplace, school, etc. until certified as an Assistance Dog Team.
“The program is uniquely designed for the individual. PAWS did as much research on me as the dog. They asked about the needs I have and what I don’t need. Then they match a dog to you and work with you to make it work. No two teams are alike.”
Jeff, PAWS Hearing Dog Client
After certification, PAWS remains available for support. Clients may contact PAWS Client Services at any time if extra training is needed, whether it’s a new task or retraining of an existing task. Assistance Dog Teams are also recertified every 24 months to ensure they are working at the required proficiency of PAWS and ADI.
When an Assistance Dog retires or passes away, PAWS clients are eligible to apply for a Successor Dog. If accepted, priority is given to successor clients for available funding and Assistance Dogs.
Please note: A PAWS Assistance Dog will not be placed in a home with another dog unless it is a retired PAWS Dog or working Assistance Dog from an ADI or IGDF-accredited agency for someone else in the household. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home interfere with the bonding and training of the Assistance Dog Team.