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Latest News

Latest News

New Standards for Service Dogs for Veterans with Military-Related PTSD

Assistance Dogs international (ADI), a coalition of worldwide programs that train Assistance Dogs including Guide Dogs, Service Dogs and Hearing Dogs, has adopted the first international standards for programs that provide Service Dogs to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

ADI is the industry leader in setting standards for assistance dog providers and has over twenty years of experience accrediting nonprofit organizations that train and place assistance dogs. Organizations must undergo rigorous scrutiny and demonstrate high standards and ethics in all aspects of their operation in order to be accredited by ADI.

ADI conducted extensive study and solicited input from its member organizations, veterans, and PTSD experts over a period of two years. ADI believes that these standards reflect best practices in the training and placement of service dogs assisting veterans with military-related PTSD.

Standards for the Training and Placement of Service Dogs for Veterans with Military-Related PTSD highlight ADI’s dedication to its mission of promoting standards of excellence in assistance dog acquisition, training, and team partnerships.

Click here to view the standards.

Date for ADI Conference 2018

Save the date!

Can Do Canines will host the ADI conference on August 18-23, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

More details to follow.

From homeschool to Oxford with the help of an Assistance Dog

In 2011 when Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services executive director, Jennifer Rogers, first met Jory Fleming, she didn’t know whether a service dog trained through PAALS could help with all three of his disabilities.  Jory’s specific goals to become independent enough to attend college inspired PAALS’ director to take on the project.  No one at PAALS knew what they would begin to unlock in Jory’s potential. Jory’s aspirations, his mother’s determination, and PAALS commitment to specializing dogs for each person they serve were the perfect recipe for success when they added the “special sauce” of a yellow English Labrador Retriever named Daisy.  And by success, PAALS never imagined that team Jory/Daisy would be heading to Oxford this fall on a Rhodes scholarship.

Jory with his assistance dog Daisy

Jory’s academic accomplishments, even in high school, proved that the world of academia was at his command. He had already found an inner peace in interacting with a pet bird, so Jory and his mom understood the potential animals hold for helping humans communicate and interact with the world. Jory’s ability to relate to animals far outweighed his ability to communicate with people, but PAALS needed to find the right assistance dog to provide him the freedom from medical limitations and empower him to achieve his dreams. Maureen Leary, PAALS instructor and Rogers believed that Jory’s potential could be unlocked with Daisy after watching them interact during visits to the Fleming’s home prior to being matched.

Leary had her work cut out for her to train a dog to assist with a combination of cerebral palsy, autism, and a metabolic disorder that requires a gastrostomy tube and feeding pump. Jory needed a medical alert dog, an autism service dog, and a mobility dog- one dog, three jobs- to keep him safe and enable him to attend college independently.  He needed his service dog to alert to his medical pump’s tube kinking, which could create a life-threatening situation.  Daisy was taught to listen for this, even when no one else could such as at noisy college games and at night.  Jory also required his dog to help mitigate the effects of autism.  Daisy was taught to press and lean on pressure points to alleviate the anxiety that being in crowded college areas caused.  He also needed a dog to help with physical limitations. Jory used AFO leg braces and a ski pole for balance. Daisy was taught to retrieve things Jory dropped so he did not have to spend energy he couldn’t spare and put himself in an unbalanced situation.

When Jory and Daisy’s team training first began, Jory wasn’t sure that being constantly attached to Daisy through her leash would be any comfort for him. Autism made him hypersensitive to the touch and feel of the leash on his legs and in his hands; but once Daisy nudged him that first time to let him know that that his medical alert beeper was going off, Jory knew that Daisy would be his key to independence. He now could maneuver in the real world without constantly worrying that the line of life-saving formula constantly being pumped into his stomach might kink and he not hear the soft beeping sound the machine made.

Once Jory started the University of South Carolina with Daisy by his side, he thrived on the college scene. Jory found new confidence in walking to class using Daisy for balance.  She alerted him if a backpack of life-saving formula was not working properly.  Daisy took away the social stresses that autism placed on Jory’s shoulders. Jory says the following about the role his service dog has played in college, “Daisy makes it possible for me to be more independent and fully experience these formative years of the college experience. She’s a wonderful friend and without her support I wouldn’t be where I am today. She makes it possible for me to explore campus and has enabled me to communicate with and meet new people at USC.”

Jory enjoyed attending college sporting events and became a regular at all University of South Carolina sporting events. The head basketball coach even got to know Jory personally and honored him during halftime at one of the games as an inspiration to other USC basketball fans. It was during one of these noisy games that Daisy let Jory know that his stomach tube was kinked and that he needed assistance.

During their last three years together, Jory has given back to PAALS by participating in public speaking engagements in which he shared how Daisy helps him daily; including inspiring the younger generations of PAALS autism teams by coaching them during their team trainings. Such public appearances may not have been possible for Jory without Daisy’s assistance in helping him overcome social anxieties associated with autism. Jory is also a founding member of Cocky’s Canine PAALS, a student organization in which University of South Carolina students volunteer at the PAALS training school to help walk and groom pups and keep dog housing areas and classrooms in sparkling condition.

Jory, with Daisy by his side, graduated from The University of South Carolina May 6th with a stellar academic record and has been granted the prestigious Rhodes scholarship in addition to a plethora of other national scholarships, University of South Carolina awards and scholarships, funded research projects, service and leadership awards. He has also authored four publications in professional journals during his time at USC.  He and Daisy are spending the summer in Washington, DC, at the Library of Congress and are headed to Oxford University in England to study in the fall 2017. Jory and Daisy are looking forward to a rewarding post graduate study adventure and PAALS can’t wait to see what this team does next to pay it forward!

Placement of PTSD Dogs with Veterans: Service Dog Trainers to Have Standards

When Gabe Nutter returned from Iraq with PTSD, he was sure that he could handle it himself. But after struggling with his own out of control behavior, sleep issues and his need to always be alert for danger, he admitted that he needed help.

Gabe and PTSD Dog Sammy

“The VA provided counseling and helped me to begin to put the pieces back together, but there was still something missing.” said Nutter, formerly a cavalry scout in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division “One of the guys I worked with had a specially trained service dog to help him cope with his PTSD. The dog was amazing and I knew that was for me.”

Fortunately, Nutter knew that NEADS trained service dogs for veterans with PTSD, but many other veterans search long and hard for organizations that will provide them with well trained and temperament tested dogs.

With more than 50,000 wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005, the ADI Industry began placing service dogs to mitigate their physical disabilities; amputations, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and back and neck problems.

As the number of Veteran Service Dog teams increased, programs placing such dogs realized that most of the veterans had post-traumatic stress (PTSD) from their combat experiences and such symptoms were more problematic for them than their physical injuries. “They were actually utilizing the tasks trained to help with their physical disabilities to mitigate their PTSD” explains Sheila O’Brien the Vice President of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

Meeting the needs of veterans with PTSD

NEADS enlisted the expertise of psychiatric social worker Dr. Cynthia Crosson in 2008, to design a program, to meet the needs of veterans with PTSD. The Trauma Assistance Dog (TAD ℠) Program, the first such program in the country, implemented by Crosson, became so successful that even more veterans applied for service dogs to help them cope with their PTSD.

The demand for dogs to help with military-related PTSD led to the need for some standardization to protect both veterans and the public from poorly trained dogs.

“In recent years, a variety of organizations and private trainers have offered service dogs to veterans with PTSD but there have been no standards governing what dogs are appropriate and how they will be trained, “said O’Brien. As an accreditor for the industry, O’Brien knows well the importance of a well-thought-out structure.

Standards for service dogs assisting with PTSD

Assistance Dogs International (ADI), charged with accrediting service dog agencies across the world that meet minimum standards governing selection, placement, and use of assistance dogs, decided to develop appropriate standards for service dogs assisting with PTSD.

ADI member Nancy Fierier of Susquehanna Service Dogs was appointed in 2010 to chair a committee to develop “’best practices’ for the placement of service dogs with those with PTSD. This committee’s work was presented at two ADI International Conferences; in Barcelona in 2012 and in Denver in 2014 and later became the basis for the ADI Provisional Guidelines for the placement of PTSD Service Dogs webinar that is available for members on the ADI website.

In 2015, ADI commissioned a committee of four representatives from various ADI accredited service dog agencies and two experts in PTSD and veterans’ services to develop a framework of guidelines on which future standards could be based.

Over the next eighteen months, O’Brien of America’s VetDogs, Sarah Birman of Canine Companions for Independence, Ken Kirsch also of America’s VetDogs and Nancy Fierer former Executive Director of Susquehanna Service Dogs in consultation with Dr. Cynthia Crosson and Dr. Michael Jaffe combined knowledge of a variety of existing programs as well as treatment strategies for veterans with PTSD to create guidelines for programs seeking to train and place these specialized dogs. Once these guidelines were worked, reworked and agreed upon, Nancy Fierer, chairperson of the ADI standards and ethics committee was given the task of developing the guidelines into definitive standards.

“This was a great committee and together we worked carefully, word by word, to be sure that it represented what we all felt was important, to ensure successful placements of service dogs with veterans with PTSD,” said Fierer.

Once the standards are ratified by the ADI membership, any service dog organizations seeking accreditation for programs to place dogs with military- related PTSD will have to meet these standards.

“Our hope,” said Dr. Crosson,” is that such standards will not only guide organizations wanting to provide the best service dogs to veterans, but also help veterans find the dogs that will be the most help in coping with their PTSD.”

Register now for Trainer’s Conference 2016

The next Trainer’s Conference is being held in Pennsylvania, USA, in September 2016. Visit the Conferences web page for more information and to register.

View ADI Conference presentations now

ADI members are now able to view presentation materials from the recent ADI Conference held in May 2016. To view presentations about ADI and AAII working together, dog database developments, working with people with dementia, and more, go to the Members Area.


Dogs with Jobs

Assistance dogs hold one of the most valued positions animals can offer their humans, with all their hard work comes plenty of love and training but assistance dogs aren’t they only dogs with jobs. Petplan, who are providers of pet insurance policies, recently wrote a post on the subject to give these amazing animals credit for the wonderful work they do within our society. So what sort of jobs can dogs do and what are the key things that make these dogs so special? Read the full article here.

The Power of a Hug

A great new campaign is celebrating the benefits of hugging your dog while raising money for Assistance Dogs International.

The Power of a Hug is asking for photos of people hugging their dogs, and for every one shared MSD Animal Health will donate $1* to Assistance Dogs International.

Visit the Power of a Hug website to find out more and upload a photo, or tweet your photo using the hashtag #PowerOfAHug.

* up to a total of $10,000.

Details released for ADI Conference 2016

Details have been released for the Assistance Dogs International Conference in Prague next year. Find out more by visiting the conferences web page.


Highlights of the recent ADI Trainers’ Conference

In mid-September, ADI held its annual Trainers’ Conference in Hagerstown, Maryland, USA.

Eighty individuals from twenty five states and Canada, met to exchange ideas and gather information regarding the raising and training of puppies in correctional facilities.

Speakers from Guide Dog, Service Dog and Hearing Dog Programs, as well as Correctional Facility Staff, made power point presentations, facilitated panel discussions and shared their first-hand experience with prison puppy programs.

Some of the topics that were discussed included:

  • The types of Prison Puppy Programs
  • Steps to open a prison Puppy Program
  • How inmates are chosen to participate
  • Prison Puppy protocols that assure success
  • How to Increase the number of canine placements
  • Puppy training curriculums used
  • The role of a Prison Puppy Liaison
  • Getting positive PR for your program
  • Pups on Furlough Program and
  • ADI Prison Puppy Standards

The highlights of the conference were the tours of the two men’s medium security prisons; Maryland Correctional Training Facility and MCI-Hagerstown.

ADI members got to see where the puppies were housed, observe puppy demos and ask a DOC panel consisting of prison officials and inmate handlers, questions. They also got to witness a graduation ceremony for three puppies that had graduated from the prison program and were about to return to America’s VetDogs for their final training and matching with a veteran.

Prison Puppy Programs are “Win Win” for everyone:

  • The ADI Program wins as prison puppies train up more quickly and that translates into placing more dogs with disabled people
  • The inmate wins as he learns to nurture and can give back to society in a positive and safe way
  • The correctional staff wins as they find that puppies bring a “calm” to prison that changes the whole atmosphere
  • And the puppy wins as he grows up to be a well-trained Assistance Dog.