FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

We at 4 Paws for Ability believe service dogs should be made available to any child with a disability who wishes to have the love, companionship, and independence that are the result of service dog placement.

We specialize in placements with children.  We have no eligibility requirements beyond a physician’s statement that the person requesting a service dog has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Often times children with disabilities contact agencies that place service dogs only to be told they are “too disabled” or “not disabled enough” and are turned down. Additionally, parents trying to find service dogs for their children quickly discover that many agencies will not place service dogs with children.

For these and other reasons, 4 Paws for Ability offers a variety of training for assistance dogs. 4 Paws trains our dogs case specific and will work with you to meet your child’s unique needs!

Q.  What is 4 Paws for Ability?

4 Paws for Ability is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that enriches the lives of children with disabilities by the training and placement of quality, task trained service dogs to provide increased independence for the children and assistance to their families.

Q.  Our child is unable to handle a dog. Do you certify parent-child teams?

We do make placements on a three-unit team. Most of the placements we make are children who are unable to independently handle a service dog, though they would benefit from the dog’s tasks on a three-unit team, with a parent, guardian, or adult acting as the service dog handler. We have seen great things happen when children and dogs are paired. As the dog mitigates the child’s disability through trained tasks, the child gains independence, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Q.  Do you place psychiatric service dogs?

At this time, 4 Paws does work with young children who have a mental health diagnosis such as Bipolar or PTSD.  Our dogs are placed on a 3 unit team with an adult as the dog’s handler, not the child. With this in mind, we do not work with teens who would want to, or be able to handle the dog independently. Every team should have the best agency for their type of service dog and 4 Paws recommends families with this specific need (independent child handler) search out the best agency for this type of dog.

Q.  Do you place Guide Dogs?

At this time, 4 Paws does not train “Guide Dogs” as we believe that this type of service dog work should be done by those who specialize in Guide Dogs for teens and adults.

However, we will work with young children and those older kids who do not qualify for a guide dog because of inability to handle them independently. For example, a teenager who is visually impaired and also severely autistic – 4 Paws would place a dog with training that is called “facilitated guide work,” which the parent can use with the child to help them feel more independent.

Q.  Our child has multiple disabilities. Can you help?

Absolutely. We welcome families who may not fit the typical service dog concept and specialize in creative solutions for unconventional placements. Click here to learn about our multipurpose service dogs!

Q.  Who is eligible to apply for a service dog?

Any child with a disability.  We believe service dogs should be made available to any child with a disability who wishes to have the love, companionship, and independence that result from placement with a service dog.

Acceptance into our program requires that the necessary service dog training is within our scope of expertise, that the home is a safe for the placed service dog, and the family is able to financially care for the dog.

In rare situations, we cannot accept a child into our program.  Reasons may include training needs outside our area of expertise or concern about the success or safety of the service dog team.  Again, it is rare that we are unable to assist child applicants.  Eligibility questions or concerns can be directed to info@4pawsforability.org 

Q.  Do you also place service dogs with veterans?

Yes.  4 Paws believes that if every reputable service dog organization placed a small portion of their dogs with veterans, our veteran population would be fully supported in our communities.  4 Paws has chosen to focus on serving veterans of recent combat whose primary disability is a mobility or hearing impairment as a result of a combat injury during one of the more recent wars and conflicts are eligible for the program.  For more information, please review our 4 Paws for Veterans page.

Q.  What is the application procedure?

There are 5 stages to the service dog placement process.  The application can be found on our website here for children and here for veterans.  The application is followed by an interview and official acceptance.  This is followed by an official contract, payment of the fee/fundraising, class placement notification, followed by attendance at training in Xenia, OH.  

Q. What does it cost to raise and train a service dog?

Five years ago 4 Paws For Ability completed a study into the cost to train and place a service dog with a child or veteran with a disability and found it to be at least $22,000.  At this time, 4 Paws has commissioned a new study to determine our current cost per dog.  The cost of needed supplies, utilities, and additional labor to support placing more service dogs per year with those in need has steadily increased over 5 years.  With the construction of our state of the art training facility and dog kennel, which has exponentially increased the experience for our families, we anticipate that the cost per dog will rise to more than $35,000 per dog.

Our funding model is partial payment for service.  4 Paws for Ability fundraises to cover a portion of the cost and families provide payment.  Currently, the fee for a service dog is $17,000.  Most of our families engage in fundraising activities within their communities to raise this fee. Read more here regarding why this fee is not tax-deductible to the donor.

Q. Why isn’t the dog free?

A large majority of the service dog agencies list their dogs as “no cost to the recipient,” which is often taken to mean “free.” However, service dogs are not free. The agency placing the dogs, “at no cost to the recipient” has received donations for the funding of the dog placed. In other words, someone other than the recipient paid for the training of his or her dog.

These agencies have a person, or a small number of people, doing the fundraising. They are able to raise funds and the amount of dogs placed is limited to the fundraising they are able to complete on behalf of the organization.  This is part of the reason service dog organizations that place service dogs with children tend to have very long wait lists – an average of five to ten years, some even higher!  Some agencies aren’t even accepting applications, as their wait list will keep them busy for the foreseeable future.

The partial payment for service model allows us to expand our fundraising reach. More fundraising is done in less time to more potential donors.  This also limits the wait for our families.  There is not a long wait list at 4 Paws.  Once the fee has been paid (either in full at the time of application or after the family completes fundraising), a dog must be born, raised, and trained for the applicant.  On average our families complete the entire process in 2 years, with an average of 6 months spent fundraising and 18-22 months from completion of fundraising to training class date.

Q.  How much money do I have to pay/raise before I qualify for a dog?

As of July 1, 2016 the fee for service is $17,000.  Very few of our families pay for their service dog.  Fundraising is completed in their communities to help raise the fee.

We recognize that this is no small request.  Please remember that your participation allows us to place as many service dogs as possible, with all children being accepted to our program and limited wait time for placement.  We cannot do it alone.  We appreciate your participation.  Families who work hard to raise the funds are, as a result, very invested in their future service dog and have a very high placement success rate because they continue their hard work with maintaining their service dog’s skills and training.

Q.  I have never fundraised before.  How do I get started?

4 Paws will assist you with fundraising ideas!  You will receive fundraising information as part of your initial acceptance package.  Our Development Director is available to assist with fundraising questions, press releases, and more.  Your child can be featured on our Make a Dream Come True page.  Additionally, our online family support network is a very good resource for assistance and support.  You can also start by taking a look at our online Fundraising Tools page.

We are here to support your efforts in any way that we can!

Q.  Why are donations to a child’s service dog not tax deductible?

In 2015, 4 Paws was selected for an audit by the IRS.  During this audit, the IRS determined that they consider the former fundraising requirement as an “exchange of service”, even though the donors to each child’s fundraising do not receive anything in exchange for their donation.  We are required to be listed with the IRS as a fee for service organization and donations that benefit a child directly are no longer eligible for a tax deduction for the the donor.

Ultimately, we do not agree with their decision and we believe that other organizations are able to operate in ways such that donations are made directly to support a specific person and remain tax deductible.  However, if we were to appeal the decision and we lose that appeal, the IRS will revoke our 501(c)3 status making all donations not tax deductible and perhaps damaging our credibility with the un-researched donor.  In the overall best interest of our clients, donors, volunteers, and friends we will proceed with their determination.  Please read more about the impact of this change in our blog post here.

All other donations to 4 Paws remain tax deductible, including donations supporting children and veterans (unnamed donations), our building fund, naming opportunities, administrative expenses, veterinary care, dog supplies, and undesignated donations.  If you have any questions about if your donation will be tax deductible, please contact us directly at info@4pawsforability.org

Q.  What donations are tax deductible?

All donations to 4 Paws, except those that are made directly to a specific, named child’s payment for a service dog, are tax deductible.  This includes donations made supporting children and veterans (unnamed donations), our building fund, naming opportunities, administrative expenses, veterinary care, dog supplies, and undesignated donations.  If you have any questions about if your donation will be tax deductible, please contact us directly at info@4pawsforability.org

Q.  Why are donations supposed to be made directly to 4 Paws for Ability?

Although donations towards a child’s fee for a service dog are not tax deductible, we ask that families who utilize fundraising to cover their fee, choose methods where donations are made directly to 4 Paws for Ability.  First, this is for your protection.  We can protect our families who ensure donations are made directly to us from accusations of fraud.  Additionally, community supporters and donors are more comfortable donating to a reputable organization than a stranger.  Finally, it is illegal to fundraise under false pretenses.  With so many ways to donate directly to 4 Paws, we believe the best and safest option is direct donation.

Families can create fundraising pages on FirstGiving or Razoo, make PayPal donations directly on our website, phone in credit card donations, or mail in checks to 4 Paws for Ability.  Please ensure the child’s name is attached to the donation in some way.

Q.  What happens if I can’t raise the entire amount?

If you are not able to raise or pay the full amount, we are unable to refund any amount already sent to 4 Paws for Ability.  If you contact us to cease your fundraising and cancel your application a dog will not be placed with your family.  Money raised or donated will be applied to the fee for another child.  The fee for service is not refundable.

We have placed more than 1,000 dogs and have never had an applicant (who truly put effort into fundraising) who could not raise the total amount of their fee. It does take time; funds do not come in overnight. 4 Paws will continue to work with you for as long as it takes – there is no time limit. On average, fundraising takes 3-9 months. 4 Paws will NOT quit working with you as long as you are making the efforts needed. We will support you in any way and stay with you until all funds are raised.

Q.  What happens if extra money comes in?

Any extra funds that come in as a result of your efforts support the placement of another service dog with a child or veteran.

Q.  Does payment of the fee/completion of fundraising guarantee me a dog?

Applicants sign a contract with 4 Paws for Ability when they are accepted to the program.  The fee for service is only one requirement of the contract.  All requirements of the contract must be met to ensure a service dog is placed with the applicant.

In addition to the fee for service, families must provide all the necessary pre-training information, attend all training sessions during a 12 day class in Xenia, OH (Alaska families are eligible to use 4 Paws Alaska), demonstrate proficiency in handling the service dog in public, and following placement, continue to meet the requirements of the final placement contract. If you are unable to attend your 12 day training session, a dog will not be placed with you.  A service dog is a medical device and 4 Paws for Ability will not hand over a medical device to a person untrained to successfully use that resource.

If you fail to follow through on your contractual requirements for getting a service dog at any point during the entire process, from fundraising through yearly certification following placement, a service dog will not be placed or may be removed from your home.

Be assured, 4 Paws will provide a service dog that was chosen and trained specific to your needs.  All elements of the initial contract and final placement contract are to protect you, to protect your service dog, and to protect 4 Paws for Ability.

Q.  Please explain the 12 day training class.

The child or children receiving a service dog and two adults are required to attend the 12 day training course.  This course covers basic obedience, all tasks trained to mitigate the pre-defined disability, dog care, grooming, public access and other topics necessary to ensure that the service dog is able to best perform his/her job.  This training course is also the beginning of transferring the bond of the service dog from the trainer to the new partner.

4 Paws is one of few agencies in the United States to work with very young children and to have no minimum age requirement.  It is extremely important when working with children that the dog bonds with the child partner from the beginning. We have found through our experience that if the dog first bonds with the parent it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to transfer that bond to the child who needs assistance. Because of this the child is required to attend the 12 day training with the dog.  We are very used to accommodating the needs of our clients and understand that some children will need breaks and time off – but the child must travel to Xenia, OH for the class and arrangements to the training schedule can be made directly with the training staff.  The time in the evenings at the hotel is an invaluable part of the initial bonding process.  Children who are able to participate in training and enjoy it are welcome to participate as much as possible.

We do require that two responsible adults attend training, one must be a parent or the legal guardian.  If it is a two parent or guardian home, the second is strongly encouraged to attend though we understand that this is not possible for all families.  A family member, friend, health care aide, or other responsible adult can attend class as the second adult to help care for the child during the training session. We encourage the entire family to be part of our training process – our new child play room is very popular with family members during class!

Q.  Can you train my pet to be a service dog?

We are unable to train dogs from outside of 4 Paws for Ability to be service dogs.

Q.  Where are 4 Paws service dogs trained?

4 Paws dogs are fostered in homes, university campuses, and state prison programs within a 3 hour radius of Xenia, OH.  Specialized task training is completed by qualified training staff at 4 Paws headquarters in Xenia, OH.  We have a small program located in Anchorage, AK that serves families located in Alaska. 

Q.  Where do 4 Paws service dogs come from?

98% of our dogs are purpose bred at 4 Paws. These are dogs specifically bred for health, temperament, skill set, and conformation. Check out our 4PawPrints newsletter for a recent article further discussing our need to purpose breed service dogs and what breeds we use here.

When we first began, 4 Paws was committed to using shelters as their main source for dogs, but we found that while many of the dogs up for adoption have the potential to be wonderful pet and companion dogs, very few met the strict requirements we have for a dog to graduate from 4 Paws as a service dog with public access. When using shelter dogs, more than 75% of them became flunkies and went on to be the pet dogs they were meant to be. With our purpose breeding program, we have been able to maintain an average rate of less than 30% of the dogs bred being dropped from the training program and adopted out into pet or therapy dog homes.

Because we believe that we are responsible for being the best possible stewards of the resources given to us by loving and supportive donors while meeting our mission to place excellent task trained service dogs with children and veterans, we breed our own dogs.  Having tried both ways, we can fairly state that purpose breeding dogs for high likelihood of success in service dog work meets both the requirement to be good stewards of our resources and to place quality service dogs.  

We at 4 Paws care deeply for all animals who find themselves in shelters across the country.  When possible without compromising the health and well-being of the service dogs in our care, we continue to assist with animal rescue. Occasionally, one will find a dog or two available through 4 Paws that is up for adoption because we were aware of their need for placement and were able to reach out and help. Though one dog at a time, we do our best to help whenever possible.

Q. We already have pets in our home. Will this disqualify us?

Our dogs are trained to work even with the distractions created by other household pets. We believe that asking a family to give up their current furry family members to obtain a service dog promotes the societal view that the animals in our lives are commodities to be thrown away when no longer convenient. In keeping with this respect for the animals in our lives, we also encourage our families to keep their dogs when they are retired or can no longer work because of health issues.  We do require that all dogs at the home be indoor pets, are well cared for, up to date with veterinary care, and are spayed/neutered.  An excessive number of dogs may impact the bond with the child.  4 Paws reserves the right to make a determination on the number of dogs in the home, in the best interest of the potential success of the placement.