How to Take Advantage of the CTU Patriot Scholarship

As part of our commitment to helping veterans and their families, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs would like to remind our supporters and recipients of the CTU Patriot Scholarship. (more…)

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, 80% to 90% of our dogs are paired with veterans. We see an array of disabilities within our veteran community, with the most prominent disability being PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a debilitating chemical imbalance that often affects veterans who have experienced trauma during their time in service. It can manifest in many ways, including flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression. For those living with PTSD, it can feel like there is no escape from the constant fear and stress.

In many cases, PTSD could be combined with a Traumatic Brain Injury, diabetes, or seizures. Mobility issues are another common disability we see in our veterans due to injuries they experienced during the time they served. Some may have back pain, limited mobility, or severe mobility issues. For these veterans, service dogs can provide much-needed physical assistance and various tasks that can transform the life of a veteran.

Using scent samples, our dogs learn to alert to changes in blood chemistry, which allows them to alert to the changes that occur when PTSD-induced nightmares, hypervigilance, anger, or anxiety attacks are approaching. The same training can be applied to our dogs to recognize changes in blood sugar or seizures and alert the recipient ahead of time.

Additionally, depending on the need of the recipient, our dogs are trained to brace or help the person with their balance while walking or standing by wearing a special harness, help our recipients from a sitting or lying position, pick up dropped items, and many other tasks. When teaching the service dogs to aid the recipient in mobility tasks, they are custom trained to assist with the individual needs of the recipient. This may include opening and closing doors, turning on/off lights, retrieving dropped items, and providing physical support while walking or climbing stairs.

Our dogs are also taught to redirect their recipients. They are trained to pick up on the chemical imbalances that cause their recipient to experience anxiety, panic attacks, or other emotions and react accordingly. This can include nuzzling, licking, standing over, pawing, etc., which results in reminding them to take medication or use a relaxation technique that we teach when the dog alerts them.

In addition to these practical tasks, our service dogs also provide a sense of non-judgemental and unconditional love for their recipients. Many individuals with PTSD may struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness, but having a highly trained service dog by their side can greatly improve their mental well-being.

Overall, our multifaceted approach to training service dogs for individuals with PTSD and other disabilities ensures that they are equipped with the skills and specific tasks needed to truly make a positive impact in their recipient’s life. Our dogs are dedicated and ready to assist those living with PTSD and other disabilities.

In addition, service dogs can help individuals with PTSD feel more confident when out in public or unfamiliar environments. They are trained to shield, which is a simple, non-aggressive task, where they put their body between an approaching stranger and
the recipient, providing a sense of safety thus preventing potential triggers. This allows individuals with PTSD to navigate through daily life with significantly less anxiety.

How Service Dogs Can Change and Save a Veteran’s Life

Twenty-two veterans die by suicide every day, with 39 suicide attempts each day as of 2023. These numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we believe it is critical for others to understand that veterans face high suicide rates. We are extremely proud that after 14 years and many, many people coming through our doors with suicide attempts and ideations, that due to our amazing dogs and their training, we have never had a suicide.

Additionally, the divorce rate in the US is approximately 47%. This goes up by an additional 90% when there is a disabled family member. After pairing hundreds of teams across the country, our divorce rate is less than 3%. Our service dogs for veterans and other individuals make a major impact on the quality and stability of their relationships. There are also secondary factors within families with veterans such as intergenerational PTSD. Children growing up in a home with a disabled parent who has PTSD can be impacted for the rest of their lives. By pairing the individual with a service dog, we can create a new and positive environment for the entire family, putting a stop to the damage of intergenerational PTSD.

Our service dogs can also help veterans dramatically reduce their number of medications. Many of them are on multiple medications to manage their conditions of anxiety, nightmares, etc. but with the help of a service dog under their doctor’s care they can often reduce or get off all medications. Our service dogs can accomplish things for our veterans that no piece of medical technology can do. Dogs have an incredible olfactory system that allows them to smell things that have yet to be replicated by any medical device. For example, a trained dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar in a body of water the size of two Olympic swimming pools.

They have abilities to detect and assist veterans that we cannot fathom, which is why Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is dedicated to harnessing this gift and creating positive, life-changing pairings in the lives of our veterans.

Help Change a Veteran’s Life Today

If you are in need of a service dog, reach out to us for more information on our application process. Our team is here to support the lives of those impacted by visible and invisible disabilities. We understand the challenges and struggles that come with these conditions, and we are committed to finding the perfect match between a veteran and their service dog.

Whether you need support or want to show your support for our mission to change lives, you can visit our website to learn more. Don’t hesitate to contact Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs today with any questions.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs pairs dogs with recipients using a thorough approach to ensure the recipient is paired with the service dog that will best meet their needs. We aim to provide a successful, lifelong match between the service dog and the recipient.

Initial Application Process

The process begins with an application form, which collects important information about the potential recipient. This includes medical diagnosis, lifestyle, and specific tasks needed from a service dog. Our Recipient Relations Department carefully reviews each application. We will go through the application question by question with you to ensure that we learn everything about your environment and your needs.

The application includes various questions such as if you have other animals and/or small children in the home, your hobbies and interests, how active the applicant is, whether you work or enjoy recreational activities, and more. This allows us to determine the right match for each recipient. For example, if you work around heavy machinery or enjoy going to the gun range, we would avoid pairing you with a dog afraid of loud noises.

Our service dogs are trained to work appropriately in public, but that doesn’t mean they can regularly cohabitate with small children or other animals. Some dogs are perfectly fine with other animals or children, so we must fully understand your lifestyle and environment to ensure we pair you with the right dog.

We also ask if you plan to start traveling, hiking, walking, or running again or have plans to begin a new hobby or venture, such as boating. Your honesty and transparency during the application process help us to ensure we find the right dog with the right energy level to help mitigate your disability and also so we can find the right dog to become a seamless part of your everyday life and environment now and in the future as your life changes.

Without this detailed information, a service dog could be placed in a home or environment where they are experiencing tension or other distractions that could affect their ability to alert or assist you.

Once the application is accepted, the next step is to conduct in-person interviews and assessments. This allows us to get to know the individual better and understand their unique needs. We also conduct a thorough evaluation of potential service dogs to ensure they have the necessary temperament and skills for the specific tasks the recipient needs.

How Our Dogs Are Trained: The Basics

Our dogs are trained through an expertly crafted proprietary program where we evaluate them at each stage. This training lasts about 15 months, allowing us to learn what the dog likes to do. We work on desensitizing the dogs to common distractions they can experience in public, but we will not force our dogs to do anything they don’t want to do. We work to ensure they are properly socialized and desensitized to common situations so the dogs are prepared for most everyday occurrences.

We also test the dogs with children through our Puppy Huggers program. These are members of the community who come on Saturday mornings to help us further socialize the dogs. This allows us to determine if the dogs want to play with children or if they are uninterested or avoid children. Throughout our entire training process, we observe the dogs closely through their behavior and body language to see what works best for them and what doesn’t work for them.

After the Application Process: The Waiting List

Once you’ve completed the application process and we deem you an appropriate potential recipient with needs that we can teach a service dog to meet, then you will be placed on the waiting list as long as your environment meets all of our required criteria for the service dog to be in a proper working situation.

The time spent on the waiting list can vary depending on how many other people are on the list and how long it takes us to ensure we have the right service dog for you. A range of variables that affect the wait time are taken into consideration, but in most cases, we try to keep the wait to less than a year.

Zoom Calls and Recipient Training

We will begin orientations with you over Zoom as we get closer to pairing you with your service dog. During these sessions, you will begin to learn the expectations in place for you as the recipient. It’s important to understand that when you are paired with a service dog, you are 50% of a team. Learning and practicing these expectations long-term is crucial to ensure your training on our campus goes smoothly and that your time as a team with your service dog is productive for both of you. It takes work on our end and on yours to ensure your team’s success. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we work to provide our recipients a “hand up,” not a “hand out,” so we do expect you to listen to our guidance, rules, and protocols.

Once a match has been made, our team begins training for both the recipient and service dog. This includes teaching the recipient how to give commands and recognize alerts from the dog, and educating them on proper care and handling of their new partner.

Depending on your specific needs, you will provide us with scent samples. We will provide you with a packet of information on collecting these and sending them back to us. We’ll use these samples to train the service dog to ensure they recognize the scent to alert to. Once completed, you will receive a phone call with about a month’s notice to schedule your in-person training and orientation at our campus.

We’ll schedule your travel arrangements, and you will come to our campus for ten days.

After Pairing and Beyond

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are always here to help. We check our teams quarterly and re-test the service dog annually to ensure you have all the necessary resources and information to succeed.

We also provide reference guides and videos to ensure you have a resource you can refer to whenever needed. Additionally, a trainer is available during working hours, so you can call to ask questions. Our veterinary team is available 24/7 for an emergency or a medical concern with the service dog.

We will offer you every bit of support you could ever imagine, but you have to play your role in the team by following our expert guidance and protocols. Without this structure, you can quickly untrain your service dog. Without regular practice, the service dog can become complacent with their skills and alerts, leading to issues of how they assist you in your daily life.

Visit our Service Dog Application page today to learn more

Warren, MI — Michigan’s military community and its distinguished supporters will gather for a landmark evening of celebration and purpose at the 10th Annual “Celebrate Michigan’s Military” Event. Taking place on June 6th, 2024, at the renowned Andiamos Banquet Center in Warren, this extraordinary event marks a decade of dedication to the courageous men and women who have gallantly defended our country’s freedoms.

With a commitment to service that shines as brightly as the stars on a June night, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is proud to host this semi-formal occasion. The mission of this year’s event continues to be unwavering: to honor the sacrifices of our beloved veterans and support those in need with the assistance of a trained medical service dog at no cost.

For nine successful years, Mary Lamparter, a resident of Grosse Pointe and the creator of this event, has made it an annual cornerstone of gratitude and giving. Together, the community has raised over $1,000,000 to support Guardian Angels’ admirable cause. All the proceeds directly contribute to the organization’s pivotal efforts — providing no-cost, highly trained service dogs to veterans in need. Deemed essential by the heroes themselves, these remarkable canines offer much more than mere service; they are trained to alert to the medical conditions of their recipients and assist them with tasks they can no longer do themselves.

The evening’s program is designed to touch hearts and inspire generosity. As the sun sets on the horizon, the celebration will commence with an exquisite cocktail reception, setting the stage for a night of profound speakers and celebration of our honored guests and the heroes among us. Afterward, guests will indulge in a delightful dinner buffet accompanied by a night of exclusive raffle opportunities. These raffles will feature a diverse selection of auction items generously donated by our sponsors and community partners, adding an extra touch of excitement for attendees.

As the evening progresses, the event will play host to notable and distinguished guests, including the remarkable veterans alongside their service dogs. Their testimonies of bravery and recovery highlight the indelible impact that donations and sponsorship have had on their lives.

In the spirit of gratitude and honor, Carol Borden, the Founder and CEO of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, remarked, “This event is not just a celebration, but a mission to change lives, and the support we receive each year truly humbles us. It ignites our commitment to continue the unwavering support of our nation’s heroes. We sincerely appreciate Mary’s unwavering dedication to our organization and her invaluable contributions to the success of this extraordinary event. Her tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we are incredibly grateful for her hard work.”

Mary Lamparter, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Regional Coordinator, Michigan echoes this sentiment, stating, “Over the past nine years, I have been humbled by the tremendous support of our local community, including our defense and military organizations… Creating Celebrate Michigan’s Military has been extremely rewarding, and I have been honored to represent Guardian Angels and promote their dedication to serving our Nation’s Heroes.”

More than a milestone, the 10th Annual “Celebrate Michigan’s Military” Event encapsulates shared values and a collective spirit. The dedication of this evening’s participants has made a genuine difference, offering hope where it is much needed and deserved.

We invite the community to join us in attendance at this memorable event. Come prepared to bid generously in the raffle, as every dollar contributes to a brighter future for our Veterans.

Guests are requested to dress to impress in semi-formal attire, with a touch of patriotic flair in red, white, and blue, to honor our military heritage. For those unable to attend but wishing to make a difference, donations can be made directly to the event to help reach a fundraising goal of $300,000.

On behalf of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we extend our sincere appreciation to our loyal supporters and dedicated sponsors for the past nine years. Your unwavering commitment propels us forward in our mission to deliver highly trained medical service dogs to those who have served and sacrificed.

For more event details, sponsor information, and to purchase tickets, please visit the official events page. Spread the word, extend the invite, and together, we can make the 10th Annual “Celebrate Michigan’s Military” Event our most unforgettable and impactful yet!

Throughout generations, people have worked with dogs in various capacities. After World War I, thousands of German soldiers were blinded by mustard gas due to the multiple perils of war. During this time, it was realized that dogs could be taught to assist the soldiers. Upon this discovery, thousands of German Shepherds were entered into an extensive program where they were trained to become guide dogs to lead people who are blind.

In 1929, the first service dog, a German Shepherd trained as a guide dog, entered the United States. He was imported by a visually impaired man named Morris Frank. The first guide dog foundation started in 1945, where dogs were trained as guide dogs for people who are blind. In the sixties and seventies people began to realize that dogs could alert to a variety of issues, thus assisting people with other disabilities. Whether it was a baby crying from another room that they couldn’t hear or alerting in advance to someone who was having a seizure, people began to see the incredible things dogs could do.

Before this, people who owned or interacted with dogs often just thought the dog was bothering them rather than alerting them to something. In many cases, dogs were not kept inside the home, so they had little chance to experience these situations and alert humans to them. More work had been done with service dogs, spurring the founding of the first service dog organization in the mid 1970’s.

The Evolution of Federal Service Dog Laws

The first federal law involving service dogs was enacted under the American Disabilities Act, which protected service dogs and their recipients. Unfortunately, when this law was written, they used “service animals” and did not define a service animal.
As the use of technology grew, people began to abuse this law. People were going online to purchase fake service dog vests, I.D. cards, and fake letters to take their pets into public places where a true service dog could go. Fake service animals can lead to several issues for service dogs and are highly problematic for recipients who rely on their service dogs for their daily tasks that allow them to lead a more normal life.

With our dogs at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we have had many episodes of inappropriate dogs attacking our service dogs. Our dogs are trained to ignore outside distractions, including other dogs and animals, while working and caring for their recipients. A service dog being attacked by an inappropriate dog can cause a myriad of issues for that service dog team. It can lead to the service dog becoming defensive in the future, causing them to potentially lunge or bark at other dogs in public, which is not proper behavior for a service dog. This can cause a good working dog to be prematurely retired if the issue is severe enough.

In 2012, the government recognized the issues occurring with fake service animals due to the vague language of the former law. The law was changed to specifically name service animals as dogs and miniature horses where appropriate, that are trained to do specific tasks to mitigate the challenges of an individual’s disability. Today, these are the only animals recognized as service animals under federal law.

Congressional Initiative to Improve Service Dog Training

Over the years, multiple non-profit organizations that train service dogs have created a coalition that has set forth minimum standards that others who are training service dogs should aspire to meet. We have consistently met and exceeded these standards at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs.
Throughout our years of training and pairing service dogs, we have developed sophisticated programs that allow us to do more for our dogs and recipients. These many innovative programs have advanced us dramatically within the industry.
Recently, the U.S. Congress mandated an initiative to study 110 1`protocols to continue improving the service dog industry and set the gold bar for everyone to follow.

With this initiative, Congress wants to explore the variables that go into raising, training, and pairing service dogs with veterans. This initiative is directed by Danny Benbassat, Ph.D., Commander, U.S. Public Health Service, CofS, Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and managed by the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium OTA and acting Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program integrator Jeremy Ramirez, DrPH, MPH, Veteran, U.S. Army, Assistant Professor of Health Informatics, California State University Long Beach Department of Health Care Administration.

Twenty-four service dog organizations, including Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, were chosen to participate in this initiative. Our organization is honored to be selected to provide our input on this initiative. We work hard to ensure that we take the correct measures for our service dogs and recipients while exploring new ways to meet their needs, allowing us to create sophisticated programs that positively change and even save lives every day.

This Congressional initiative aims to discover what we and the other organizations believe are the best practices to put in place. At the end of July, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs will come together in Washington, D.C., with the other organizations chosen for this initiative. At this meeting, they will discuss the findings they have been notating through the exploration of the numerous variables that were set forth. We were practicing most of these protocols with our service dogs already. We are helping to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what modifications need to be made for the entire set of initiatives.

This meeting will allow the organizations to collaborate and discuss their findings in detail and create a final document of expert guidelines, which will then be delivered to Congress. An intermediate person will directly address Congress with these findings. With this initiative, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs and other participating organizations hope to set the gold standard for the entire service dog industry.

Hopes for the Future of the Service Dog Industry

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we hope this Congressional Initiative sparks further change and improvement within the service dog industry, leading to more funding for service dog organizations that provide these amazing dogs for veterans in need. The final decisions on these initiatives will further improve the training and best practices that each service dog organization follows.
We plan to continue year after year to explore other portions of the service dog industry and determine what upgrades and changes need to be implemented to ensure veterans and civilians in need of a service dog receive their life changing, life saving service dog.

As we begin a new year, many of us are setting goals and making resolutions for ourselves. For some, this may include finding the perfect job or career that aligns with our passions and values.

Recently, we’ve promoted a few of our staff members, and they have offered their advice for planning your career in 2024: (more…)

Service dog organizations are very complex businesses. While there is a misconception among some people that a service dog shouldn’t be costly when they can just take a dog to a few obedience lessons for a few hundred dollars, they miss the point that we are not simply teaching these dogs obedience. Extensive training and care go into creating a service dog.

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are creating life-changing service dogs, which is a process that requires a lot of care, education, and attention to be successful. Before delving into the actual cost of a service dog, it is critical to understand all of the elements that go into producing one.

The Complexity of Service Dog Organizations

Our organization has multiple departments, from dog training to dog care specialists to our veterinary team, who are responsible for taking care of the dogs in a number of ways, from cleaning up after them to feeding, watering, grooming, health care, etc. There is a wide range of duties that need to be performed to keep the dogs in top-notch condition.

Our trainers conduct all of the different levels and stages of training to teach the dogs everything from obedience to specialized tasks that assist a person living with a disability with a variety of tasks, from balancing to picking up dropped items to alerting the recipient of a medical emergency or waking them up from a night terror. In addition, they must be socialized, desensitized and receive a lot of practice in public venues.

Our veterinarian team and animal hospital are on our campus to ensure the dogs are healthy 100% of the time. The veterinarian staff is also there to handle any sickness or other issues that may arise with our paired teams across the country.

Additionally, we have our Recipient Relations Department, which works with all of our recipients and applicants for a dog, helping to qualify them. We have teams of people within this department, including an inquiry team, who are the first ones to receive a request from an individual, and they start the conversation about the process of getting paired with a service dog. Once the applicant moves up the scale and is qualified, they work with our recipient relations staff to continue the process.

They may also work with our Experienced Team Panel to answer everyday questions that may arise.

Office personnel and our Finance Department also play a significant role in our operations. They work to keep up with bookkeeping, computer skills, documentation, letters, thank you notes, etc. A lot of administrative duties go into the documentation of training and pairing of a service dog.
Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs also has a Development Team to bring in the funds needed to care for, train, and pair the service dogs. We do not sell products like a for-profit business. We donate all of the dogs we pair, so our Development Department works to find the funds that keep our organization moving forward.
When you break things down by each department, it begins to put things into perspective on the costs that go into training a service dog.

Training a Service Dog

To train a service dog to navigate the public world successfully, there are a lot of skills they need to learn to become properly socialized and desensitized to deal with all the different situations, noises, smells, etc., that they will encounter in public.

Each service dog is trained based on the needs of their recipient. These skills go far beyond the standards of emotional support, sit, heel, and come. These dogs are trained to detect changes in the recipient’s blood chemistry so they can alert them to an oncoming seizure, high or low blood sugar, or a PTSD episode. The service dog can also be trained to open and close doors, turn on and off lights, and bring food and water from the refrigerator. Additionally, they can be trained to assist someone with their balance or help them get up from a lying or sitting position.

These dogs are trained with highly advanced skills that take time to teach. It also takes time to teach the trainers how to teach these skills properly to the dogs.
So, in addition to the departments needed and the extensive training the dogs receive, this is all part of the cost that goes into preparing the dog to be a service dog.

Pairing the Service Dog

Everything we do is ultimately for the recipient and the service dog. When we are ready to pair a dog, we cover the travel costs for the recipient to come to our campus from anywhere in the country. This includes airfare, hotel, rental car, etc. We cover this cost to ensure the recipient gets the service dog they need to regain their independence. Without covering these costs through our organization, many recipients would not be able to afford to get their own service dog, even if the dog is being donated. We don’t want a circumstance like a lack of available income to stop recipients from being paired with their service dog.
The recipient is brought in for two weeks of training, and then they go home with their service dogs. After that, we have a consistent follow-up with them, starting the first few weeks when they first get home with the service dog and then quarterly after that for the life of the team. We also have traveling trainers who, if there’s a problem with the service dog that can’t be resolved over the phone or by Zoom call, can then fly out to that location. The trainer stays there to work with the team, see what’s going on, and work through that issue with them.

We also have a medical savings program for recipients to help them cope with any veterinary costs, which have also skyrocketed.

Total Cost of Producing a Service Dog

In the past, it would cost around $37,000 to produce one service dog. Now, with inflation, that cost has quickly gone up by more than 10%. For example, dog foods are more expensive, with prices increasing astronomically in 2023.

In a six-month span, first, we had a 15% increase in dog food, then we had a 30% increase in dog food. So that is a considerable expense.

After COVID, there have been many “Help Wanted” signs everywhere due to many people not wanting to return to work. With the government raising the minimum wage in a lot of places and business owners having to raise wages and offer more benefits to draw people back into the workplace, that was another cost increase due to both COVID and inflation.

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we provide excellent wages for a nonprofit organization, and we offer our employees more benefits than most regular businesses because we want to take care of our people. While it creates a great environment for our employees, it does raise our costs significantly.

A lot of funding is needed to achieve our mission. Each piece we’ve discussed in the article goes into each service dog we produce and pair with a recipient.
We search for every avenue to raise funds to produce quality service dogs to pair with recipients and help them lead a fulfilling life.

To learn more about how you can support our mission, visit our Donate page today!

Our dogs are an important part of our lives. Whether they are a pet or a service dog, keeping them at a healthy weight is crucial for a long and happy life. When it comes to a dog being overweight, there are a wide variety of risks that rise in numbers and severity with increasing weight to the point that pet obesity is now categorized as a disease in companion animals as it is in humans. (more…)

As we celebrate her 70th birthday, we invite you to join us in honoring all the work she has done for this incredible organization.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, is a non-profit organization that provides highly trained service dogs to veterans and others in need. These medical service dogs are not only trained to assist with daily tasks, but they also provide companionship and support for those struggling with physical or mental disabilities.

Carol’s passion for helping others and her unwavering dedication to this cause have made Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs one of the leading organizations in providing medical service dogs to those in need. And on her 70th birthday, we want to show our appreciation by asking for donations to support this cause.

We are aiming to reach a goal of $70,000, and we invite you to donate in honor of Carol’s birthday. Whether it’s $7, $70, $700 or even $7000, every little bit counts and will make a difference in the lives of those who will receive these medical service dogs.
(Note: Please feel free to personalize this message with your own words and memories of Carol)  Your donations will not only honor Carol, but they will also bring hope and support to those who deserve it.

Carol Borden has dedicated her life to helping others, and on this special occasion, let us show our gratitude by giving back to this noble cause. Your donations will go towards training and providing service dogs to veterans and individuals with disabilities, making a significant impact on their quality of life.

We invite you to spread the word and share this invitation with your friends, family, and colleagues. Together, we can reach our goal and make Carol’s birthday one to remember for years to come.

Thank you for your generosity and support. Happy 70th Birthday, Carol Borden!

Mary Jo Brandt, COO of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs recognized as a Diversity Game Changer by the Orlando Magic Basketball Team

Orlando, FL – November 30, 2023 – Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is pleased to acknowledge Mary Jo Brandt, Chief Operating Officer, as the distinguished recipient of the Orlando Magic Diversity Game Changer of the Week award. This esteemed recognition highlights Brandt’s unwavering commitment to promoting social justice and equality within our community.

The Magic Diversity Game Changers program acknowledges local leaders who strive relentlessly to effect sustainable change and enhance the lives of residents in Orlando. For each game, one individual is honored, and this week, Mary Jo Brandt was selected for her exceptional contributions to both the service dog industry and our community.

Some notable achievements of Mary Jo as a Diversity Game Changer include:

  • Successfully placing individuals with service dogs to foster enduring partnerships
  • Demonstrating unwavering dedication to the mission and goals of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs
  • Providing hands-on support to partner families, establishing robust support systems
  • Advocating for diversity and inclusion within the service dog industry and the wider community

Carol Borden, the CEO of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, shared her excitement about Brandt’s well-deserved recognition. Borden stated, “Mary Jo Brandt, our exceptional COO, is truly revolutionizing the service dog industry. Her strategic placements and unwavering commitment to our mission have earned her the esteemed title of Orlando Magic Diversity Game Changer of the Week. We are extremely proud to have her as a part of our team.”

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is proud to celebrate the invaluable work of Mary Jo Brandt, shining a spotlight on her dedication and the profound impact she has made on countless lives.

For more information about the Orlando Magic Diversity Game Changers program and Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, please visit and

About Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training and donating highly skilled medical service dogs for individuals living with disabilities, with a focus on U.S. military veterans and first responders. With an emphasis on enhancing the lives and independence of their recipients, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has successfully paired hundreds of dogs with deserving individuals, making a positive impact on families and communities across the nation.

Being paired with a service dog when living with a disability can be life-changing and can help you interact with the world in new ways and reclaim your independence. However, you may have concerns about gaining public access to spaces or flying with your service dog, but there is no need to worry. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that service dogs have the same public access rights as their human counterparts. This includes places that are “pet-free.” This is because a service dog is viewed no differently than other medical assistance devices such as wheelchair or crutches. A service dog is a medical device with a heartbeat.

Is an ID Required for My Service Dog?

Whether you are trying to dine out or stay in a hotel, your service dog has the same public access rights as you do. There are instances where someone may try to push back or ask for ID. Under federal law, you are not required to have any form of identification for your service dog to gain access to public spaces. The service dog is not required to wear a vest, or collar, or have paperwork stating they are a service dog.
At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we work to discourage any type of confrontation for our recipients when they are out in public. We insist that our recipients have their service dog wear their vests every time they are out in public.

When taking your service dog out to a variety of places where the average pet is not allowed, it can invite confrontation from someone who is uneducated on service dogs. By outfitting them in their vest that identifies them as a service dog, it can help avoid uncomfortable situations with the public.
Although it is not legally required, we insist on our service dogs wearing a vest to prevent issues with merchants or the public. Unfortunately, there are many imposters out there who are passing off inappropriate dogs as service dogs. These dogs do not behave properly in public, and it is a direct insult to those who are living with disabilities and rely on their service dog to conduct their daily life.

When experiencing pushback from a merchant, restaurant owner, etc., even if the service dog is wearing a vest, we instruct our recipients to explain the law non-confrontationally and in a polite manner that service dogs are legally allowed in public venues anywhere you could go with a wheelchair, a cane, braces, etc. There are still some people who are going to continue to push back even after that statement and try to deny you your federal right to enter.
In this instance, we instruct our recipient to provide the person with an ID card that has their picture with their service dog on it. On the back of the card is a phone number to reach a federal representative who will answer questions or provide clarification and a website link to their state’s service dog laws.

If you have tried these steps and they are still denying public access, you have the right to call the local authorities. When you call, explain that you are permanently disabled and are being denied access to the public space. Explain to the authorities how your rights are being violated and ask them to come assist you in explaining the state statute to the business owner. The authorities should then come and explain to the merchant what the law is and what your rights and their rights are in the situation. This will typically resolve the situation, but if the police do not come because they view it as a civil matter, things will need to be escalated if you choose to sue the merchant. Being denied access to a public place due to your service dog is a federal violation of your rights.

Merchant Rights When It Comes to Service Dogs

There are two legal questions that merchants are allowed to ask about the service dog. The first one is, “Is this a service dog?” The recipient should be able to easily answer “yes” to this question if they are being truthful in their representation of the service dog. The second question is “What tasks is he trained to do to assist you?” If they are unable to answer what tasks the service dog is trained to do, such as specific alerts, mobility assistance, etc., then it is an emotional support dog who does not have rights to public spaces.

Merchants should also consider that not all disabilities are visible or apparent when looking at someone with a service dog. In some cases, you may see someone in a wheelchair, with a cochlear implant, or a cane and be able to automatically understand that the dog is trained to assist them with tasks they are not physically capable of doing. If the service dog is behaving appropriately, there is no reason for a merchant to approach and hassle the working team.
As mentioned above, if a merchant is unsure of the service dog’s validity, they can ask two questions, otherwise, they cannot harass or force a working team off the premises just for having a service dog.

There are a lot of invisible disabilities that people do not think about somebody could be severely diabetic or have seizure conditions. There are many conditions that people can have that are invisible, but they can be equally catastrophic. In many cases, someone with an invisible disability will walk, talk, and act normally, which can lead some merchants to believe the service dog accompanying this person is an imposter. We urge merchants not to make assumptions like this. If the service dog is behaving appropriately and is not disrupting the business, you have no right to take any further action beyond asking the two designated questions.
In respect to the Merchant’s rights, if the dog is not behaving, they can ask the person to leave. For example, if the dog is not paying attention to the handler or isn’t responding to the handler’s requests, or if it’s running all over the place, damaging merchandise, having accidents, or if it’s growling and barking and the handler can’t bring it under control, the merchant does have grounds to ask them to leave.

Keep in mind, it is different if the dog just has not had a chance to go to the bathroom, or he has diarrhea from being ill. There is a difference between an accident and just not being housebroken.

Additionally, if the dog barks once or twice at another dog or just in general and the handler gets them back under control immediately, with no further issues, this is not grounds to have them leave the premises. In some cases, the bark could be an alert to the recipient notifying them of a medical issue.

As a merchant, it is critical to take these factors into consideration before forcing someone out of your business just because they have a service dog. This could cause the person to enter a downward spiral and cause them to withdraw from society. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we have seen people who have been isolated for up to 25 years and they do not start coming out in public again until they have the help of their service dog. When encountering a service dog at your establishment, think about the people who are just coming back out into the world for the first time and how damaging confrontation can be for them. It could ruin their newfound independence and cause them to go back to isolating themselves.

It is important to be educated on the law as a merchant to ensure your rights are respected and that you respect the rights of those living with disabilities when they visit your business.

Identification Issues when Traveling with Your Service Dog

When traveling with your service dog and staying in a hotel room, it is important to always check your bill. A hotel is not allowed to charge you a pet cleaning fee for having a service dog with you.

If you plan to fly with your service dog, most airlines now require you to submit advanced paperwork so they can verify your service dog and permit them onboard. Be sure to submit this information well in advance and take a copy of all necessary documents with you so if there is an issue with their system, you will have the paperwork they require. You will not be admitted on the flight without submitting this required paperwork in advance.
Airline policies and regulations vary, so be sure to research the airline policies with the carrier you are using to ensure you follow all policies to make certain you are granted access to board the day of your trip.

Whether you are a merchant or a service dog recipient, we are happy to provide you with resources and answer any questions about your rights when dealing with a service dog. Contact us today to learn more!

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Joins Prestigious Congressional Initiative to Advance the Medical Service Dog Industry

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has been selected as one of the two dozen medical service dog organizations nationwide to participate in a special initiative mandated by Congress. The primary objective of this program is to determine if the in-depth details outlined in this initiative for training and pairing service dogs meet the needs of permanently disabled service members and veterans.

This initiative, directed by Danny Benbassat, Ph.D., Commander, U.S. Public Health Service, CofS, Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and managed by the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium OTA and acting Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program integrator Jeremy Ramirez, DrPH, MPH, Veteran, US Army, Assistant Professor of Health Informatics, California State University Long Beach Department of Health Care Administration, was created to maintain safety measures to protect service dogs and the public while using data-driven decisions to ensure continued improvement within one of the most vulnerable communities these organizations serve.

As a leading medical service dog organization with highly advanced programs and over a decade of experience, Guardian Angel Medical Service Dogs will work with other organizations like themselves to collect and share their best practices, which will then be used to refine and improve the prototype guidelines for future organizations when it comes time to train and pair assistance/service dogs with qualified service members and veterans.
“Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is proud to have been selected for this crucial project. They have been a highly sophisticated leader in this industry for nearly 14 years, bringing forth many programs above and beyond the current industry standards, thus raising the bar of excellence with our milestones and benchmarks,” said Carol Borden, Founder and CEO of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs.

The current “prototype guidelines” will be tested by the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs and other selected organizations where they can share best practices to refine existing guidelines, which will allow them to improve service dog programs. This initiative will evaluate the effectiveness of the suggested guidelines while examining a range of issues affecting service members and veterans with service dogs and those who train service dogs.
Once each organization has gathered empirical data on each of the protocols in this program, they will participate in focus group meetings for further discussion and analysis that will help build future guidelines and best practices related to the quality-of-service dog training, the optimal education and matching of service dogs with service members and veterans, and the safety to canines, service members, and the public.

“Our goal is to further shape the future of this life-changing, life-saving industry that deserves much more clarity and respect for the work these amazing dogs do every day. With this valuable opportunity to assist Congress, we will accomplish another enormous milestone in moving the service dog industry forward,” said Borden.

When the study concludes, the findings will be presented to Congress. Currently, it can take 2-10 years for someone to get a service dog. With the additional funding, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs will be able to hire more people and enlarge their facilities, which means they will be able to pair more dogs more quickly with veterans and service members in need.

To learn more about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, visit

About Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training and donating highly skilled medical service dogs for individuals living with disabilities, with a focus on U.S. military veterans and first responders. With an emphasis on enhancing the lives and independence of their recipients, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has successfully paired hundreds of dogs with deserving individuals, making a positive impact on families and communities across the nation.

Over the years, airlines have had issues with untrained dogs causing incidents on flights such as biting, having accidents, and other issues that put the health and safety of passengers, crew, and highly trained, appropriate service animals at risk.

As a result, the Transportation Department enacted stricter regulations on what they consider a service animal. They have tightened this definition to only include service animals, excluding emotional support animals. Only service dogs are permitted to fly as service animals and any companion used for emotional support is not protected. Passengers can still fly with their pets, but they must pay a pet fee and check them into the cargo hold if they wish to fly with them.

Flying with your service animal takes a certain amount of preparation to ensure it goes smoothly. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we’ve gathered our top tips to help you make travelling with your service dog safe and easy.

Preparing Your Service Dog to Fly Within the United States

A major factor when flying with your service dog is their bathroom habits. Depending on where you are traveling within the States, your dog may need to hold their bathroom for five hours or more. You will have to regulate their bathroom habits to ensure they can hold it for the duration of the flight.

Your service dog should use the bathroom before you enter the airport and should be capable of using the pet relief stations in the airport to ensure they are ready to board and can hold their bathroom for the duration of the flight. They have no concept of how long they will need to hold it, but you do, so be sure they can go potty on command and relieve themselves prior to boarding your flight. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, these are all things we teach service dogs to do so that are prepared to fly.

In addition, you need to notify the airline that you are flying with your service dog at least 48 hours prior to your flight. There is paperwork you will need to fill out. This process can take time since many airlines are now utilizing a third-party verification service where they will call the organization you got your service dog from to verify that it is a trained service dog.

It is critical that you don’t just show up at the airport with your service dog expecting to get on a flight. With the new rules surrounding flying with animals, it will not happen without the official paperwork and verification.

Can I Fly Internationally with My Service Dog?

When it comes to flying internationally with your service dog, it can become complicated. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we do not encourage international travel for our paired teams. This is because when you travel internationally, you are not protected by the same laws for people with disabilities that have a service dog as you are in the U.S.

Another issue is lack of education about service dogs and the confrontation that may result. While these issues sometimes arise in the United States, they are even more prevalent in other countries where they are not required to follow our laws regarding service dogs.

Some countries don’t have any service dog laws protecting people with them or they have their own laws that may differ from those in the U.S. Even in countries that do have laws protecting service dogs, there is often a lack of education on the matter, and it becomes very difficult to navigate.

A major risk of international travel with your service dog is if you encounter a country that doesn’t allow service dogs public access. You may then be forced to place them in a kennel somewhere that you know nothing about. This could put the health and well-being of your service dog at risk.

International travel also presents the issue of food. You must consider how you will transport enough food to sustain your service dog. Depending on how much your dog eats and how long you will be gone, you could be looking at travelling with a very heavy suitcase. Water in other countries will also differ from what your dog is used to. This can lead to GI upset and if your dog gets sick, you have no way of knowing if their veterinarians can provide them with the proper level of care.

Another concern for your service dog is vaccines. Other countries may not regulate vaccines for their dogs, or your dog could be attacked by a stray animal who is not vaccinated. In another country, your service animal can also be exposed to disease or parasites that could lead to extreme illness.

For international travel, your service dog must also be prepared to hold their bathroom for 8 to 12 hours. Many international flights are at least eight hours depending on where you are travelling to. There is not always a layover on an international flight and even if there is, you could end up in an international airport where there is nowhere for your dog to relieve itself.

Keep in mind that dog relief stations are a U.S. accommodation.

Can I Travel with My Service Dog on a Cruise Ship?

If you are planning to go on a cruise with your service dog, there are several things you should consider before making that commitment. Like flying internationally, cruise ships oftentimes do not sail under the American flag. They are sailing under other countries who have regulations different from the U.S., which can lead to issues when travelling with your service dog.

Before going on a cruise, you would need to make sure there are areas on the ship available where your dog can relieve himself. You also need to consider that many cruises are going to a tropical destination that is hot, so your dog would not be able to stay out on the deck when you go to the pool, but they could go to the restaurants and shows. If that’s what you are interested in during your time on the cruise, then that may be fine for your service dog.

During the cruise, your ship will be stopping at multiple ports along the way for off-ship excursions. If you are with your service dog, it is not likely you will be able to participate in off- ship activities. This is because, many other countries do not follow the same rules and regulations the U.S. does for service dogs. As mentioned in the previous section, even if you can take your service dog with you to certain places in other countries, you risk your service dog being attacked by another dog or animal or contracting a disease or parasite.

This is why we do not typically recommend international travel or cruises to our recipients to ensure their safety and the safety of their service dog. When you are paired with a service dog, it is life-changing in many ways. If you are an avid traveler and enjoy international travel or take cruises often, then a service dog may not be the best fit for your lifestyle. Once you are paired with a service dog, they are a permanent part of your life and should be with you at all times. We want you to enjoy life to the fullest with your service dog, but there are certain lifestyle changes that may be required to ensure the safety of your service dog.

Have Questions About Traveling with Your Service Dog? Contact Us Today!

If you have any questions about traveling with your service dog, we would be happy to help you! Contact us today to learn more.

[PITTSBURGH, PA] – Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has announced they are breaking ground on their Pennsylvania Campus. This campus will bring the organization’s mission to help those with permanent disabilities to the northeast region of the United States.

The new state-of-the-art campus will cover 102 acres, with one hundred acres in Washington County, McDonald, and two in Allegheny County. It will be located twenty minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, ten minutes from the airport, and run along the Montour Trail. (more…)

Airport security is necessary for any trip, but when traveling with your service dog, there are a few things to consider. Service dogs under federal law, says they can go anywhere the public can, including the airport.

By preparing your service dog in advance and completing all the appropriate paperwork, you can help make your flying process more manageable and less stressful.

Does My Service Dog Need Identification to Fly?

Even though federal law states that a service dog is not required to have identification such as a leash, harness, or bandana that says that it is a service dog, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs requires all our teams wear their vest. By making it easy for airport staff and others to identify your service dog quickly, you can help avoid any confrontations or issues that may arise.

It is critical to understand that there are only two legal questions the airline staff can ask you about your service dog. They can ask:

Is this a Service Dog? The answer would be “yes”. Remember the laws that define a service dog says it must perform a task or tasks that mitigate the challenges of a disability. If your dog is only for emotional support, he/she would not qualify.

What does your service dog do for you? If you are asked this question, you do not have to tell them your medical condition as your medical information is protected by HIPPA law. If you want to disclose your disability, that’s your choice, but it is not required. We suggest you answer this question as follows:” My service dog is trained to alert to my medical condition” or “My service dog is a mobility dog, a hearing impairment dog, or a visual impairment dog”. Please don’t feel pressured to disclose your disability because it is not legally required but you must be prepared to tell what task your dog is trained to perform for you.

What Am I Required to Do to Fly with a Service Dog?

It is essential to understand that airlines are an executive branch of the government under the Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT is not bound by the federal ADA service dog laws, but they have created regulations that mirror those laws.

The airlines found it necessary to create additional rules and required paperwork motivation due to irresponsible dog owners causing terrible incidents on planes where the dog was not trained appropriately. This led to dogs that were terrified and uncomfortable because they lacked proper training and socialization. These dogs were unprepared to be in a very small space with strangers who wanted to pet them resulting in people being bitten and injured, ultimately leading to the dog owners being sued as well as the airlines.

With these issues, airlines had to find a way to avoid these problems and protect their passengers and staff. Thus, they created guidelines for distinguishing between inappropriate and appropriate dogs. In many cases, airlines will not allow emotional support dogs to fly. However, they allow service dogs to fly at no extra charge. Service dogs are treated like a cane or wheelchair, which a person would not be charged for flying with.

Most airlines have created paperwork that needs to be filled out to confirm that the service dog is adequately trained. This paperwork should be filled out and submitted at least a few days before your flight. This paperwork is designed to protect you and your service dog by preventing you from encountering inappropriate dogs that could cause problems or even pose a threat to your service dog and the people on your flight.

What is My Service Dog Required to Do on the Flight?

The dog is required to lie on the floor at your feet, which, of course, is a limited amount of room. This is where prior training is crucial, so he/she is prepared to lay in a small space quietly for the length of the flight. The dog should also not be barking or lunging at people, acting aggressively, or presenting any type of safety risk. If the dog does become restless, it is crucial that you get the dog under immediate control. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, our dogs undergo extensive training to adapt to these situations, allowing you to travel freely and safely.

Can I be removed from the Flight Because of My Service Dog?

If the service dog is posing a public safety threat, he/she can be denied access to the flight. For example, suppose it is lunging, growling, or barking at people the airline has the right to deny you service for the safety of the other passengers. If the dog is barking at the recipient as an alert, this is not a threat.

If the airline you are flying with requires advanced paperwork and you fail to submit it, they can refuse service for not following their guidelines. This is not only to help ensure the safety of the airline and its passengers, but you and your working dog as well, to prevent inappropriate dogs potentially causing you harm.

Tips for Preparing Your Service Dog for Flying

Book Your Airline in Advance

This will give you time to research the airline requirements, such as advance paperwork, and will also provide you with time to check their amenities for your service dog, such as doggie relief stations, so that you can plan potty breaks accordingly.

Be sure you have worked your dog into a bathroom schedule that will accommodate the flight times.

Practice Certain Tasks/Situations

Ensure your dog has practice getting into small spaces and lying down for long periods such as the intended length of the flight. Make sure your dog is probably socialized, desensitized, and trained to deal with these situations. Because a proper service dog should be invisible, it should be as invisible as possible unless it’s performing a function.
Your service dog should be able to go right onto the plane, lay down at your feet, and fly the entire distance, mostly unnoticed. If your dog is not at that level, you probably need more time to be ready to fly with them.

How to Prepare at the Airport

Make sure your dog has gone potty before you go through security. Most airports have doggy relief stations, so be sure your dog potties one more time before you get on the plane. They don’t know how long they will be on the plane when they have the urge to go, therefore it needs to be addressed in advance.
The dog should also enter the boarding waiting area with you and lie down to wait to get on the plane.

Have Questions About Flying with Your Service Dog? Contact us today!

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are happy to answer any questions you may have about flying with your service dog. Contact us today to learn more!

In the Spotlight: Lucy Barnes, Gifts Advisor

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