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

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.

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!

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.

As the holiday season approaches, we are reminded of the importance of giving back to our community and those in need. That’s why December is recognized as National Giving Month – a time to spread compassion and joy by supporting organizations that make a difference in people’s lives. (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!

At times, restaurant owners may feel uncertain about how to handle situations in which a disabled individual with a service animal wishes to enter the premises. It is essential for every business owner to understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to allowing animals into their establishment.

What is a Service Dog?

Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as any dog that has been trained to perform specific tasks to mitigate the challenges of an individual’s disability. Therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and companion dogs are not protected under the ADA and have no public access rights.
If someone is accompanied by a service animal into your restaurant, it is important to remember that this animal is not a pet; it is a medically essential part of the individual’s daily life and should be treated as such. Service dogs are permitted access to all public spaces.
The only exceptions would be sterile environments like a surgery room or places where their health could be affected like an x-ray room. Service dogs should not be taken to certain zoos exhibits, where their presence could stress out the animals.

Am I Required to Allow a Service Animal into My Restaurant?

Under the ADA, restaurant owners must legally allow service animals into their establishments. This means that you cannot refuse entry to a person with a service dog based on your own personal beliefs or your concerns for health and food safety rules.

Additionally, denying access or charging extra fees for customers with service animals can result in legal penalties. You cannot segregate the person and their service dog to a specific place in the restaurant. They should be treated like any other customer when entering your establishment.

Restaurant owners do not have to change the normal function and flow of their restaurant for a person with a service dog. A recipient of a service dog is not allowed to ask the restaurant to accommodate them.

Can I Ask for Identification or Certification for the Service Dog?

By federal law, there is no required certification or identification for a service dog. They don’t have to wear service dog harnesses, bandanas, or anything to indicate they are a service dog. However, at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we require our service dog teams always have their vest on in public. This is done to avoid confrontation or any other issues when venturing out into public, but it is not legally required.

As a restaurant owner, it is important to remember that you are not allowed to ask for details about the individual’s disability or require proof of certification for their animal. Remember that not all disabilities are visible.

You can legally ask these two questions:

  1. Is this a service dog?
  2. What tasks does this dog perform for you?

When Can a Restaurant Owner Deny Access to a Service Dog?

If the animal’s behavior is disruptive or poses a risk to your customers or staff, you have the right to deny access. If the dog is trying to steal food, jumping at wait staff or guests, barking, growling, soiling, etc. and the handler can’t calm the dog, then it is appropriate for the restaurant owner to ask the person to remove the service dog from the business. They cannot be removed because someone may be afraid of dogs, they don’t like dogs or have allergies to dogs.
In some cases, business owners may feel uncomfortable with the presence of an animal in their restaurant. This is a valid concern; however, it is important to remember that allowing access to individuals with service animals not only ensures compliance with the law but also promotes inclusion and respect for all customers and employees.
Being informed about your rights as a restaurant owner regarding service dogs is the key to creating a safe, welcoming atmosphere for all. If you are ever in doubt about how to handle a situation involving someone accompanied by a service animal, it is best to consult an attorney who specializes in disability law.

Tips for Recipients When Entering a Restaurant

As mentioned above, recipients should keep in mind that they cannot be denied entry to a restaurant. You also need to remember that you can’t request special accommodations from the business.

Be sure your service dog is wearing their vest and that they lay down under the table or out of the way for foot traffic for other guests and wait staff. Your service dog should never be allowed up on a chair or in the booth. They should remain lying down under the table or close to you to ensure they do not cause a disruption. You should never be feeding them from the table or allowing them to sniff at the table or anyone else’s table.

Finally, remember that if your service dog becomes disruptive in any way, you should take the necessary steps immediately to ensure there will be no further issues. It is important to remember that your service dog should be with you at all times. Guardian Angels has a one-foot rule, meaning your service dog should never be more than a foot away from you. This ensures that he/she isn’t bothering any other patrons, sniffing the floor looking for crumbs, and that he is remaining attentive to you.

If your service dog, for some reason, becomes disruptive, the business owner can legally ask you to exit the restaurant, which should be done without confrontation. It is essential that you always keep your service dog under control.

Have Questions About Service Dogs? We Can Help!

Restaurant owners and recipients should understand their rights and responsibilities regarding access to businesses. It is important for everyone involved to be informed about what is expected when entering a public venue, as well as how to handle any issues that may arise.

By keeping these key points in mind, restaurant owners can ensure they comply with the law while creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for everyone. This helps create inclusive spaces where all people feel comfortable and welcomed.

If you have questions about your rights as a business owner or a recipient, contact Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs today!

…from Pirates Pup to Super Service Dog

In 2021, the Pittsburgh Pirates and PNC teamed up to sponsor the training of a medical service dog for a veteran in need. The Pirates became the first professional baseball organization to team up with Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs for this cause.

In a public social media contest, Pirates fans worldwide chose the name Bucco for this all-black German Shepherd puppy, destined to change a life forever.

Since that time, little Bucco has worked really hard, training everyday with the trainers at Guardian Angels. He’s learned all the basic commands, like sit, stay, and heel plus a myriad of special skills that normal dogs don’t do, such as being trained as a scent detection dog to alert of chemical changes within his recipients’ body, that may cause a negative medical impact, allowing the recipient to take corrective action prior to any health episode.

He’s also worked really hard to keep up with his Bucco fans, and is quite the social media Supaw-star, with over 3,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 2,000 fans on Instagram! Last week, he made several appearances at PNC Park to watch his teammates play and win.

Bucco’s made several lasting memories with his Pirates’ team and fans. Here are a few of his special moments:

Visiting the field with his Dad on Father’s Day

Hanging out with Pirates Legend, Manny Sanguillen

Holding his very own Paw-ress Conference

Visiting one of PNC’s Grow Up Great centers with the Parrot & Pirates players

and, of course, meeting all the fans!

Here’s a little secret that few people know – Bucco’s very best friend is the Pirate Parrot! These two were best buds from the start and we’re sure they’ll keep in touch.

The best news is that Bucco has completed his training, passed all his classes, and has just met his person. While Bucco is a little bummed about leaving his teammates and retiring his No.1 jersey, he is excited to fulfill his mission in life, ensuring that his recipient is well taken care of! Although Bucco has had a very friendly and public training period, it’s important for people to remember that, once he’s paired with his new person, people should no longer approach or interact with him, unless given explicit permission by his new handler, so that his full focus can remain on his recipient.

Bucco will have a rockstar sendoff from his baseball career as he is paired on the field with his new teammate for life, David, on September 4th at PNC Park. David was an Army medic assigned to the First Infantry during Vietnam and has struggled for years. We know that Bucco is going to be the difference in beginning a beautiful #NewNormal for David.

Please join us in congratulating the Pirates, Bucco and David!

If you have a disability and rely on a service dog to complete daily tasks, you may be wondering how to navigate the workplace with your service dog. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we’ve developed a guide to help make this transition smooth.

Can I Bring My Service Dog to Work?

Before you take your service dog to work, consider what your job is and what duties you perform daily. If you’re driving a forklift or working on an assembly line, there are moving parts and other situations that can be dangerous for a dog.

Other careers like welding or being a delivery driver could also present hot, undesirable conditions for your service dog. Even if you are an insurance salesman or other type worker such as an AC repair technician, where you will be visiting people’s homes, may not be ideal for your service dog. If you work in an office setting, then that should be a good environment to bring your service dog.

Before coming to work with your service dog, you want to make sure your boss understands that you are requesting a “special accommodation”. When asking for a special accommodation, it may spark worry in your employer about what exactly that may mean, whether they will need to have a special space for you, do special things for you, and whether it may cost the company money. They may also wonder if it will change the way their business functions. The answer is -no. The business is not required to do anything special to accommodate you with your service dog. Asking for a special accommodation simply means that you’re requesting to bring dog work with you because he is your medical equipment for your medical condition. By law, this request cannot be denied.

Do I Have to Show Paperwork?

There isn’t any legal need for specific paperwork, but some employers may ask. You can fill out their requested paperwork if they aren’t asking you any personal questions since your medical information is protected under HIPAA. If you have a problem with the questions on the paperwork, you can check with the EEOC or your state disability services to be sure the questions are appropriate.
If you need a letter for your employer stating your need for a service dog just to prevent any confrontation or misunderstandings, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs can assist you with that.

We are always available to assist you. We believe in taking the course of least resistance and educating employers rather than creating distention.

Tips for Helping Your Dog Adjust to Your Job

The most important thing you need to do is make sure your dog is comfortable. Make sure he has water, a few toys, a bed, and any other items to help him feel comfortable throughout the day. During the day, you will need to be cognizant of your service dogs needs. Take him/her out on your breaks and use your lunch hour to take him out to play. This will ensure he gets necessary exercise rather than just sitting there all day.

Also, be sure to continue to complete your job as normal and follow the protocols of your business. Of course, at first, people will want to meet the dog and ask you questions but be sure to keep boundaries. Your boss will really appreciate you preventing your service dog’s presence from becoming a social hour.

Make sure fellow employees understand that your dog is only there to provide service to you, the recipient.

Want to Learn More About Service Dogs? Contact us Today!

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, one the of the largest non-profits for service dogs, serves as a resource for those in need of a service dog. Visit our website today to learn more!

Are you someone who loves dogs, supports our veterans, first responders, and civilians in need, and wants to make a difference in the community? Then you’ll want to create a fundraising team for Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ Community Mutt Strut!

By creating a fundraising team, you can help raise funds to support Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ mission and make a positive impact on the lives of both service dogs as well as veterans, first responders, and civilians in need.

Why Create a Fundraising Team for the Community Mutt Strut?

By creating a fundraising team for the Mutt Strut, you’ll be making a real difference in the lives of veterans and their families. Service dogs can be incredibly helpful for veterans who are struggling with physical or emotional difficulties, and by raising funds for Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, you’ll be helping to provide these dogs to those who need them.

Additionally, creating a fundraising team is a great way to raise awareness and vital funding for a great cause!

How to Create a Fundraising Team for the Mutt Strut

Creating a fundraising team for the Mutt Strut is easy! The first step is to register as a team captain on the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs website. Once you’ve done that, you can recruit other team members by sending invitations to friends, family, and colleagues via social media, email, or word of mouth.

It’s worth mentioning just how impactful your fundraising efforts can be. Each service dog trained and paired with a veteran costs approximately $25,000 to $30,000 in training and placement. By coming together as a community and raising funds for Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we can help provide this much-needed support to those who have served our country.

All funds raised by the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Community Mutt Strut Fundraising Teams will go directly towards training and pairing service dogs with veterans.

Bring Your Team to the Mutt Strut!

In addition to creating a team, you can attend the Community Mutt Strut itself. The event will be held on September 16th at the Great Lawn on the North Shore. This event is a fun-filled day that includes a picturesque walk, music, pet-related vendors, dog agility demonstrations, and more! Come out and see first-hand the impact these amazing service dogs make on the lives of veterans.

You can register for the Mutt Strut by clicking here or coming down to the Great Lawn on the North Shore on the day of the event.

If you can’t make it to Pittsburgh, join us for the virtual Mutt Strut from September 13th – 16th, where you can bid on various great items, purchase a virtual ticket to the Mutt Strut or make a donation to show your support!

Create a Team to Make an Impact Today!

Creating a fundraising team is a fantastic way to make a difference in the lives of both service dogs and their recipients. By establishing a team, you can support the vital mission of our non-profit organization and have a lot of fun in the process.

So what are you waiting for? Register as a team captain today and start making a positive impact on veterans and your community!

Service dogs provide invaluable support for people with disabilities and are specially trained to provide support and function to the recipient. Service dogs are not considered pets but rather more like medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or oxygen tank. They are federally protected, meaning they have public access that pets do not, thus allowing them to accompany their recipient virtually anywhere they need to go. (more…)

What a night it was at Celebrate Michigans Military 2023! Held in a brand new venue at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, this event was our most successful yet.

Of course, the importance of the June 6th (D-Day) event was evident to all who attended. At this event, not only were we able to fund several more Service Dogs for deserving veterans on our waiting list, but we also celebrated the unveiling of the new statue of Les Brave II, at Water’s Edge art installation, dedicated to the allied troops who landed on Omaha Beach during WWII. We were honored to be joined at the event by several WWII veterans, as well as several “Rosie the Riveters”.

The evening featured many presentations, including representatives from all four branches of service, Guardian Angels Founder & CEO, Carol Borden, a moving speech from Guardian Angels Recipient, Bryan and his Service Dog, Fahrny, as well as incredible food.

This was the eighth Celebrate Michigan’s Military event, and by far the largest with over 400 registered guests in attendance. Thank you to all who sponsored, supported, attended and donated to this great event in support of Guardian Angels!

While the ADA does not have specific rules for leaving your service dog at home, if you truly need a service dog, it is not recommended by Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs that a recipient leave home without him/her. Service dogs are protected under federal law and granted accommodation rights by businesses, allowing them to accompany their recipient everywhere they need to go that the public would normally be allowed to go.

Why Should I Avoid Leaving My Service Dog at Home

A service dog is intended to work for someone 24/7. While service dogs do sleep and take breaks, they are also very tuned into their recipient. To even qualify by law to have a service dog, you must have a disability for which the dog is trained to mitigate the challenges.

Therefore, if you have a permanent disability, those challenges can occur at anytime, anywhere. If you leave the service dog at home, they will not be able to assist you if you experience a medical event or other issue while in public.

There is also a very strong bond between a service dog and the recipient. The dog understands their job, so if you leave them at home, they often become very anxious and upset that they have been separated from their recipients, and that is an unhealthy state of mind for them. If you leave them behind regularly, the dog will decide that you do not need them to really work for you. If you become complacent in doing what is necessary to maintain this strong bond with the dog, they will become complacent as well.

If you only ask the dog to help you some of the time and not all the time, then the dog will not know when he is supposed to work and when he isn’t.

Making Lifestyle Changes for Your Service Dog

Disabilities such as seizures, diabetic changes, PTSD, mobility, and more can cause complications for recipients when they are in public at any given time. While there are instances where you may be tempted to leave them at home, you are placing yourself in a situation where you could experience an emergency and would be left without the assistance of the service dog.

When you get a service dog, it is sometimes necessary to make lifestyle changes. For example, if you enjoy riding motorcycles, you will have to give up riding since you cannot take your service dog with you. Another example would be if you like to go to the shooting range. It is not an appropriate place for a service dog because the gunshots are very loud, and they have not been adjusted to noise like that in most cases to where they’re comfortable with it. This can cause the dog to start having a negative experience which can materialize into behavioral issues and other problems you want to avoid. Concerts and clubs are another very loud environment that is not appropriate for a service dog.

Leaving your service dog at home to go enjoy these types of activities puts you at risk of having a seizure, diabetic high or low, PTSD episode, vertigo, etc., or can leave you with difficulty getting up from your seat or keeping your balance without any support from your service dog.

You cannot predict what things are going to happen while you’re away. If you leave the dog at home, you are gambling that you might be okay without your service dog, putting your health, safety, and life at risk. If you are comfortable going places and doing things without your service dog, then it may be the case that you do not require the assistance of a service dog.

How to Ensure Success with Your Service Dog

Service dogs are highly trained and do a wonderful job with their assigned tasks. To ensure the best performance and relationship possible, it is a 50/50 effort between you and your service dog. If you do not do what you are supposed to do with your service dog, then you will not have a proper working relationship with the dog.

Service dogs are trained to mitigate the challenges of a wide range of disabilities 24/7, so they should be always with the recipient, no matter the circumstances. This not only keeps the recipient safe but also provides the dog with the opportunity to fulfill the purpose for which they were trained.

Learn More About Service Dogs Today!

Visit the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dog website today to learn more about how service dog organizations help those with permanent disabilities regain their independence!

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