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 who are turned away by many other agencies. 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. We find creative, innovative means of assisting children with severe disabilities with solutions. 
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. Also, parents trying to find service dogs for their children quickly discover that many agencies will not place service dogs with children. In addition, many agencies won’t place service dogs in homes where there are other pets, and state that if they want a dog they have to get rid of their current pet companions.
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!
  • How do you decide who gets a dog?
We 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.
So, given the training is within our scope of expertise, that it is safe to place a dog with the family, and the family is able to financially care for the dog we rarely turn a family down.
  • How much does a dog cost?
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, their dogs are not free. The agency placing the dogs, “at no cost to the participant” 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 on a limited basis and those dogs are then trained and placed.
Because they are limited in the number of people fundraising, they can only offer a certain number of dogs per year and usually develop a long waiting list. Most agencies with these “free” dogs have waiting list averaging from two to five years.
At 4 Paws For Ability, the cost to train and place a service dog with a disabled child starts at $22,000. However, our families engage in fundraising activities as volunteers for 4 Paws to qualify for a free service dog. Each family is asked to help raise at least $15,000.
  • Do you accept applications for psychiatric service dogs for placement with adult partners or Guide Dogs for people who are visually impaired?

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 work with them. For example, a teenager who is visually impaired and also severely autistic. We place a dog with training that we call facilitated guide work which the parent can use with the child to help them feel more independent.

At this time 4 Paws does work with young children who have mental health diagnosis such as Bi-Polar or PTSD, however, 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. We feel that every team should have the best agency for the type of dog they need with the most knowledge on the intricacies of their needs in a placement working with them. If your child is a teenager or preteen and your goal is for the child to handle the dog on their own without an adult caregiver handling the dog, please do an Internet Search to find an agency that specializes in this type of placement. There are some wonderful agencies out there that provide these types of service dogs. 
  • Who attends training and why is it done that way?
4 Paws is one of the few agencies in the United States to work with very young children and to have no minimum age requirement. We are the only agency existing in the United States which has been placing service dogs with children who have Autism for almost 10 years and are the leading provider of Autism and other specialty trained dogs for children. 
It is extremely important when working with children that the dog attach to the child from the beginning. We have found through our vast experience that if the dogs bond first with the parent it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to transfer that bond to the child. Because of this the child attends training with the dog and is there from the first meeting to begin the bonding process immediately. 
Although the children may not participate in training during the day after, if it is too stressful for them or they are just not able to handle it, the time at the hotel with the dog is invaluable to the success of the placement. 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 and the other parent is strongly encouraged to attend though we understand that this is not possible for all families. In fact we encourage the entire family to be a part of our training process! When only one parent will attend another adult must come with them to help supervise the child during class time.
  • What will my child(ren) do during class time?
As stated above, the children who can and desire to participate may do so. However, 4 Paws has a huge state-of-the-art facility designed for children! You can read all about it on the facility page. 
We have safe indoor and outdoor play areas with loads of things for the children to do including computer access for those children doing work for school or who enjoy computer games. At 4 Paws we strive to meet all the child’s needs while they are here and have a lot of equipment available that might be used in the home for therapeutic purposes. 
We are all about your child! The other children in the family may also participate in the training. It is a good way for them to learn how they can interact with the dog to help facilitate the bond between the child the dog is trained for and the sibling receiving the dog. However, they are also welcome to enjoy the many play areas set up for the children. We do have some baby items as well, a crib, high chair, and mats. 
  • Our child has disabilities that seem to fall into two categories of service dogs. Can you help?
Absolutely. We welcome families who may not fit the typical service dog concept and specialize in cutting edge placements and creative solutions for unconventional placements. Click here to learn about our multipurpose service dogs!
  • Do you have any kind of support system for families of children you accept?
We have an online support network for our 4 Paws families. We allow all of our clients access to each other so that our graduates can communicate with each other and help our new families through the process! We feel this speaks to our quality of service! 
  • We already have pets in our home. Will this disqualify us, or make problems for 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.
  • What kind of funding options do you offer?
We provide a wide range of funding options. We have no eligibility requirements beyond a physician statement that the person requesting a service dog has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and which falls within the programs provided here at 4 Paws. We find creative, innovative means of assisting people with severe disabilities with solutions for handling the dog.
  • Our child is unable to handle a dog. Do you certify parent-child teams?
We do make placements on a three-unit team. All of the placements we make with children or adults who have disabilities that prevent them from handling a dog though they would benefit from the dog’s tasks on a three-unit team. We have seen great things happen when children and dogs are paired. As the dog migrates the child’s disability through trained tasks and the child gains independence, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
  • Where do the dogs come from?

At 4 Paws 90% of our dogs are purpose bred. These are dogs specifically bred by 4 Paws to perform certain types of jobs. Our dogs are bred for health, temperament, and longevity. Many of the dogs we use for breeding are second and third generation 4 Paws breeding dogs. This means that their mothers/fathers, and even in many cases their grandparents, were 4 Paws breeding dogs. These are dogs which were held back from service dog training to produce more puppies for 4 Paws, selected as the cream of the crop from their litter and many times because their parents produced amazing service dogs with special talents like scent work.

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. 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, less than 5% of all dogs bred are dropped from service work and adopted out into pet or therapy dog homes. We have found the use of shelter dogs to be a waste of valuable resources not only financially, but also the time it takes for the staff here to search rescues and shelters for the very few who just might graduate. We feel a responsibility to those who donate to us to be good stewards of the money they so graciously give as well as a commitment to our families that we will provide the best dog possible to meet their needs.  Using quality purpose bred service dog puppies is one of the most important ways we can do that.

That being said, we at 4 Paws care deeply for all the animals who find themselves in shelters across the country and participate in the rescue and adoption of puppies when able we are able to do so without compromising the health and well-being of the service dogs in our care. 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.

Fundraising Support

Read about our 4 Paws Fundraising support team. Families who have completed the process helping new 4 Paws families to fulfill their fundraising requirement!

At 4 Paws, the money doesn’t come out of the recipient’s pocket either. What we have done is to create a fundraising requirement. We form a working relationship with the recipient to have them raise money for 4 Paws in order to then qualify to receive a dog. The family is raising funds for 4 Paws for Ability as a volunteer to support our mission and goals.

In this manner, the waiting list we have is only as long as it takes the person to complete their fundraising requirement. We felt that there were many, very capable people with disabilities and their friends and families, who would rather spend time helping us fundraise so they could then get a dog, than to sit on a 2-5 year waiting list for a “free” one.

Here is an example, which might help you understand. Most people are familiar with Habitat For Humanity, a group that builds new houses or renovates old houses for people who can’t afford to buy a house on their own. Once a person applies and is accepted to receive a house, they then have a “work requirement.” This person must now spend 300 hours helping to build houses for other people before they will be given a house.

Someone might read this and think, 300 hours? “I can’t do that,” but there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people across the USA sitting in their very own houses because they could do it. Many time people think, “Fundraising? I can’t do that.” However, if you take a minute to look around the website, you will see a fraction of the many dogs placed because the people could do it!

I can’t even begin to tell you how many of our recipients were astounded when they finished their requirement and said,”Wow, look what I did.” In this way, their service dog has become an empowering influence in their lives even before they get him/her! Fundraising takes commitment on your part, but just think at the end of the process you can be very proud of this accomplishment, as we hand you the leash and send you of on a new and exciting journey in your life.

FAQ About Our Fundraising Process

  • How much money do I have to raise before I qualify for a dog?
4 Paws asks each family to fund raise at least $15,000 as a volunteer for 4 Paws. Most agencies use program development personnel to raise the money needed to train and place service dogs. Because of this they are limited to whatever this person or people can bring in over the course of a year. By using our clients as volunteer fundraisers we are able to operate on a much larger budget, which means we can place far more dogs and do not have to utilize a waiting list.

This is good news for you! The funding you are raising is used to support the 4 Paws mission of placing service dogs with disabled children. Once your fundraising requirement is complete you will then qualify to receive one of our specially trained dogs. It will cost 4 Paws $22,000+ to place a service dog with your child so any amount of money you raise that exceeds your minimum requirement of $15,000 will certainly make it possible for us to train even more dogs for more children.

4 Paws will assist you with fundraising ideas. We have a handout titled Fundraising – A Great Start with many wonderful ideas on ways to raise money for 4 Paws. These ideas will usually bring in much, if not all of the money needed to fulfill your fundraising requirement. This amazing document is provided as part of the acceptance packet only.

Remember, 4 Paws is not asking you to go out and fundraise for yourself, independent of 4 Paws. You are required to “volunteer” to fundraise for 4 Paws For Ability as a sort of “partnership” in providing a service dog to you.

We are here to guide you, approve all fundraising efforts, make changes on all material going out to the public, and offer suggestions to improve your efforts.

You will not be sent out to raise money on your own, which can seem very overwhelming, you are volunteering for and working with 4 Paws.

We will be here to support your efforts in any way that we can.

  • Why can’t I just raise funding on my own?

4 Paws is a 501(c)(3) agency. This means that not only is the donation tax deductible by the person donating it but also that we are accountable to the IRS for our fundraising efforts. In addition there are agency policies in regards to how fundraising is done. For these reasons, all fundraising efforts must be cleared through 4 Paws.

You will need to call and/or email us with your activities. On the fundraising handout you will find the following statement “Keep a detailed account of all your contacts including but not limited to, schools, universities and colleges, churches, media other agencies, businesses, or funding sources. Provide updates on your fundraising efforts weekly.” If we have a problem with how a letter or flier is worded, we will provide alternate wording.

If an activity is not acceptable we will explain and offer an alternative means of raising the money. There are specific ways the money raised through the means on the handout Fundraising – A Great Start should be collected and/or supplied to 4 Paws and these will be shared with you at the time that we discuss the fundraiser with us. If you were just to go out and “do it on your own,” you might accidentally misrepresent the fundraising process to the donors or create a legal issue that we would then have to deal with. Remember, in essence you are volunteering your time and fundraising efforts to 4 Paws in order to qualify for a dog from our agency.

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

We have placed over 750 dogs and have never had an applicant who truly put effort into fundraising who could not raise the total amount of their fundraising requirement. It does take time; funds do not come in overnight. 4 Paws will continue to work with you for as long as it takes. Generally the fundraising takes 3-9 months.

However, if you were to raise half, three-fourths, etc. of the money and then quit your fundraising efforts, stating you no longer wish to participate in this process, no dog will be placed with you.

The donations you helped to raise for 4 Paws are not returned. These are monies given to 4 Paws as a donation and will be used by 4 Paws to continue our service dog placement services.

Please be clear on this topic of discussion, 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. No family who has honestly worked at fundraising has not received their dog!
What if I can afford to just pay the money or my family wants to just pay the money?

If the person fails to meet the contracted agreement and no dog is placed, or a dog is removed after placement, the money donated is not returned.

Remember it is a donation NOT a fee paid for the dog and fundraising is not the only requirement you must meet to get a dog.

  • How do I know that the money I bring into 4 Paws is credited to my efforts?

You will be asked to tell anyone making a donation to 4 Paws because of efforts on your part, to include your name on their check or to attach a letter, newspaper clipping, etc. that shows the donation is in your name and should be added to your list of donations secured for 4 Paws.

Each time a check comes in with a notation indicating your name, it is noted on your records. A letter of thanks is sent to the person who made the donation to 4 Paws that they can use for tax purposes.

At the time your records show you have met your requirement, your case is officially opened and a dog is placed into training for you.

  • What happens if extra money comes in?
All donations that come in are made to 4 Paws and not to you personally. Any extra funds that come in as a result of your efforts are used to provide service dogs to people with disabilities.
  • Does completion of my fundraising requirement guarantee me a dog?
Completion of the fundraising requirement assures that you are eligible for a dog and that 4 Paws will supply a dog trained specifically to meet your needs. Once the dog is fully trained, you must still meet with the trainer to learn about the dog and get to know him or her.

You must participate in training with the dog at the training center and in public. Make all training sessions, with the dog, after the dog is placed, and maintain the training contract you signed prior to fundraising as well as the placement contract you will sign when the dog is placed in the home.

You should also know that how the dog is placed is not guaranteed by the fundraising requirement. Let’s say you have been approved for a Mobility Assistance Dog and wish to take this dog into the public. You have finished raising money and the dog has been fully trained. However, after the training period is over, you have not been able to demonstrate that you can handle the dog in public; the dog will then NOT be placed for use in public.

You will sign an agreement stating you understand the dog is for home use only until at some later date you may be then able to demonstrate better control of the dog. If you fail to follow through on your requirements for getting a dog at any point during the entire process, from fundraising through maintenance of yearly certification the dog will not be placed or may be removed from your home.

Again, please be assured, 4 Paws will provide a dog that was chosen and trained specific to your needs. Your ability to handle the dog determines if the dog is placed for use in the home or for use in public as well.

If you fail to come for training with the dog (out of state) or training sessions (in state), no dog will be placed. Therefore the only reason no dog would be placed at this point would be as a direct result of your failure to meet the training requirements. 4 Paws cannot simply hand someone a trained dog.

The recipient must learn how to use the dog both in the home and in public.

Hopefully this has answered your basic questions. If not, please feel free to call and discuss your questions or concerns with a 4 Paws staff member. We have placed more than 40 dogs in the community, using this process, and their recipients are thrilled to have them!

We look forward to beginning this exciting journey to receive a wonderful 4 Paws For Ability service dog, with you. The day the dog is placed, we guarantee all your efforts will seem light in respect to the wondrous life you and your dog will have together!

  • Please explain about group training in Ohio
When your 4 Paws Service Dog has finished his/her training, you will need to come to Ohio for a 1-2 week stay. During this time you will work individually and with other families to learn how to manage your new K9 partner. Our facility is a hub of activity aimed at meeting your needs and the needs of others receiving assistance dogs.
  • What happens when one of your dogs is discovered to be unsuitable as a service dog?

Meeko is an example. Meeko is a German line German Shepherd who was donated by a soldier who was in Iraq, and he has what we call garbage gut which means he got loose stools very easily. We felt he would do better in a pet placement than a stressful service dog placement. We placed him with an adoptive family, and here’s what Jim Weber says about his new dog:

Just thought I’d let you know how Meeko is doing. WONDERFUL!!!! He has settled in at his new home quite nicely. He is a happy, healthy, and very intelligent dog with a great disposition. He has socialized with the neighbors dogs, as well as other dogs at the park and pet store extremely well.

Even with lots of distractions, he minds his manners and pays attention to my commands. We play/train in the yard every day, and we have been going to Prairie Oaks parks to walk and run for at least another hour each day. In less than a week he has almost mastered “loose leash” walking. And he is rapidly learning my commands and signals.

For an 11-month-old dog, his ability to learn and behave is amazing. I am using positive reinforcement for his training. He is a natural for it. Meeko is gentle, patient, and very loving. He does not pester me for food, bark when he has to wait, or chew on anything while alone. My vet was really impressed with him and his behavior when he went in this week. He is in perfect health and weighs 64 lbs.

We both agreed that he should be about 80 -85 lbs once he’s filled out. (Boy, can he eat!!!) In short, I could not have dreamed of a better dog. I cannot thank you enough. The programs and care you have given him have done wonders. I have told every one I know (and a few I didn’t know) about your program. What you do for these animals, and the people lucky enough to adopt them is nothing short of a miracle.