The first step in receiving a service dog with 4 Paws for Ability is submitting an application. The information that you submit in the application will help us to understand the client’s needs and also the hopes you have for a service dog. There is a $50 application fee when you submit your application. Once you have submitted an application, you will receive a confirmation email which verifies the submission and provides forms to be completed: 1. Health form completed by a medical doctor along with attached prescription that says “service dog” and 2. Letters of reference completed by two individuals who know the client but are not related. Commonly these are teachers, therapists, nurses, but can also be friends or neighbors. Once these supporting documents have been submitted by the respective individuals, then 4 Paws will reach out to set up a time to do a phone interview. This 20-40 minute phone discussion goes over the information that you have provided and pairs the needs with tasks that a 4 Paws service dog can be trained to provide.
After the phone interview, you will receive a contract that lists the tasks that the 4 Paws service dog can be trained to provide. You will review that information to ensure that it accurately reflects the needs, and if so, sign and return the contract. At the same time that you receive the contract, you will also have access to an online Acceptance Course. This course has in-depth information to ensure that you fully understand the process and commitment of receiving a service dog. To be an active client with 4 Paws, you must have completed the Acceptance Course and have a signed contract on file.
Fee for Service
Once you are an active client, you are able to meet your fee for service. The current fee for service was set in 2017 and is $17,000. This amount is your financial responsibility to contribute to the cost of placing a service dog with you. Many clients choose to do fundraising to reach their fee for service so that the cost is not an out of pocket expense. 4 Paws will provide families with an online course to enable families to have the information and support they need to reach their fee for service. On average, meeting a fee for service through fundraising takes an average of 3-6 months.
Note: Veterans Assistance Dogs currently have a grant that covers this cost, so Veterans applying for a service dog have already completed this step.
After the family has met their fee for service, 4 Paws will place the family into the next open placement training class. 4 Paws has placement training classes each month with an average number of spots for 10 clients. Currently, these classes are full an average 2.5 years out due to the number of clients waiting, as well as the time it takes to breed, raise and train service dogs. Class dates are not finalized until the year preceding your class. At that point we will send you additional forms to complete that help us with the matching process as well as preparing your service dog to live as a member of your family. We also have clients send in a video of your routines, areas where you are contracted to receive assistance, home tour, etc.
Class Preparation Course
Three months before your placement training class, we will send you an online Class Preparation Course to complete. The information includes important things to know to maintain good health in your service dog, laws around public access, etc. The course is also a good point of reference to use even after you have received your service dog.
The placement training class is held in Xenia, OH (or Anchorage, AK by invitation only) for 9 consecutive days. Class starts on a Saturday and graduation is on Sunday. You will meet your service dog the first day of class, and will be receiving hands-on training from the training staff to understand how to effectively use your service dog. You will receive both group instruction as well as small group and individual sessions. You will have training times at the 4 Paws Training Center and in public places like a mall, grocery stores, area parks, home environments, etc. You will also have the opportunity to meet the volunteers who worked with your service dog on a designated day. You will have assessments through class to ensure that you understand the tasks and are able to use them correctly in addition to a public access test. The final day of class includes Graduation which is a celebration of the formation of the new team and an opportunity to recognize the many people it took to reach this day.
Follow Up Support
4 Paws provides additional support during the first year to support the team’s success. After graduation, your class will take part in once a week virtual discussion for the first month. After the first month it will move to a monthly virtual discussion until you have been a team for 6 months. 4 Paws additionally has team assessment forms to be completed quarterly during the first year so that we are able to support you with your new service dog. After a year, and yearly thereafter, 4 Paws sends out annual paperwork that includes a team assessment, health form completed by a vet and two letters of references from individuals who have seen the team working but are not related to the family. Once the paperwork is received, 4 Paws recertifies the team to work for another year.
Note: At any time 4 Paws staff are available to clients to reach out when they need assistance.