What are the requirements for Veterans to be accepted into the program? How can I apply?
To qualify for our program, Veterans must have an official diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the Veterans Affairs, a Veteran Center, or their mental health care provider. AVBF also needs documentation that having a Service Animal would be beneficial to the Veteran in dealing with their PTSD. A Veteran’s PTSD does not need to be combat-related to qualify. Active military personnel must submit proof of service, and inactive or retired military personnel must submit a DD214.
I am a Veteran with PTSD and I already own a dog. Can I train it to be my service dog in your program?
Maybe. In order to be accepted into our training program, all dogs must be evaluated for their potential to serve as a Service Dog. Our trainers will need to conduct an in-person assessment at two locations to satisfy this requirement. If the dog passes the assessment, you may start the application process with your dog. If the dog does not pass the assessment, you may start the application process and we can arrange for you to receive a Service Dog (you may still keep your pet, but it will not be trained as a Service Dog). If you are interested in arranging an assessment, please contact us.
How long does it take for a dog to be trained as a service dog?
Most Service Dogs are in training for 12-18 months. Upon passing the Public Access test, the Veteran-dog team needs to be retested annually.
How much does it cost to train a service dog?
Because our trainers are volunteers, it only takes $6-7,000 to train a Service Dog in our program, and the cost is not passed on to the Veteran. Nationally, the average cost of training a Service Dog is $30-$40,000, and is usually paid by the Veteran.
Do you train service dogs for people who are not Veterans?
No. Our program is specifically designed to meet the needs of Veterans and their families.
What are your service dogs trained to do?
Our service dogs are trained to assist Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other disabilities specific to their Veteran, usually mobility issues. To mitigate issues related to PTSD, our dogs are trained to:
- Create a barrier in front of or behind the Veteran (not guard) when out in public.
- Alert the Veteran to his/her surroundings during a panic attack.
- Wake the Veteran from nightmares.
Our dogs are also trained in basic obedience commands and trained to behave in public. They are not trained to be protective or assertive.
I am a Veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a mobility issue. Can your program train a Service Dog to help me?
Yes, our program trains Service Dogs to meet the specific needs of their Veteran.
Do you work with specific breeds of dogs?
No. We work with dogs that pass our assessment, regardless of breed. However, in most cases we will not train pit bulls because of the increased stress caused by breed specific legislation in local areas.
Where do your dogs come from?
Our dogs are adopted from local shelters, rescue organizations, Paws in Prison, and received from community members. In order to be accepted into our training program, all dogs must be evaluated for their potential to serve as a Service Dog. For each potential Service Dog, our trainers conduct two in-person assessments, taking into consideration the dog’s age, physical health, history, temperament, intelligence, and desire to learn.
What happens to the dogs that are not successful in your program?
Unfortunately not all dogs will be able to complete our program. This does not mean that they are bad dogs, it just means that they are not able to be Service Dogs. The dogs that are not successful in our program are re-homed into the community – meaning that some lucky individual or family gets a very well-trained dog!
Are you associated with the VA?
We are a nonprofit organization, not associated with any governmental organization, including the VA.