In the past, independent trainers have had no means of obtaining any recognition as a member of a service dog program network. While most existing SD programs are run as non-profits, they tend to be centered in or around large cities, leaving a large rural population of the nation with no access to credible training programs. This has left thousands of citizens nationwide with no means to achieve legitimate team certification, and competent and dedicated private trainers feeling isolated and disconnected from the SD training community. This network is designed to provide independent trainers with an ability to set up organized programs, understanding that group lessons are more cost effective for teams than private lessons. It is our hope that this effort will open the door for individuals with disabilities to obtain credible training, and combat the growing problem in society of individuals purchasing fake credentials online because they lack credible options in their region.
Over the past year, the FSDS has turned to several well qualified trainers who are well established in our Evaluator Network. This network has been in operation since 2008. Together we have compiled a comprehensive set of program policies that will strengthen programs and services, and provide small businesses with the support needed to operate a credible service dog training program. There is a world of difference between the notion of providing private lessons, and operating a full service program. Membership in a program network provides trainers with the support needed to be successful.
It must be understood that the exclusive purpose of this program is to certify your SD training program that operates under the umbrella of your business. This program does not certify any other type of training that your business offers, other than SD training.
We wish to thank the following individuals for lending their expertise to this process:
- Toni Hyland, PhD, Salinas California
- Tom Tackett of Tackett Service Dogs, California
- Nikki Esser, owner of OC Service Dogs and Healthy Mutt, California
- Gail Kulur, private trainer since 1983, New Jersey
Benefits of Membership
As with any other endeavor, certification has its advantages. Those programs that put forth the effort to meet the high standards that are upheld in the SD community will be able to enjoy the benefits of belonging to a network. Among these benefits are:
- free federally mandated annual OSHA training for your staff
- access to a complete set of program standards
- didactic training for team handlers designed to meet the needs of learning challenged individuals
- ability to request funding to assist a client with disabilities in underwriting training once a year
- referrals from other members in network
- guaranteed reciprocity for your teams if they relocate
- program to be listed on FSDS website to increase your visibility and reach
- updates regarding any changes in SD laws and standards
- ability to network with other trainers across the nation
- opportunities to work your way up to a position of Regional Assessor, as positions are available
- increased marketability, credibility and public confidence for your business
Before you proceed, you must understand that the road to becoming a credible, networked SD training program is a process, and there are costs involved. These costs involve a combination of membership and training fees, staff time involved in outlining procedures to accompany each policies, and costs associated with submission of materials and services of the Regional Assessor. There is a world of difference between offering private lessons for clients, and running a fully certified training program. We remind individuals that though there are costs, please bear in mind the savings that come from being able to receive a comprehensive set of policies. The savings in the staff time that it would have taken you to construct these materials will more than offset any expenses along the way. The single most important thing that you can do to protect and nurture your SD training program is to lay a solid foundation.
• Application fee: $150 good for three years
• Training fees of $250 per staff trainer for SD 101
• Submission of materials fee: $150 (payable when your policy and procedure manuals are completed)
• Regional Assessor fee: $400 to be paid to Assessor at the time that on-site visit is scheduled
• Travel and lodging fees to be paid by program directly to the Regional Assessor at the time that on-site visit is scheduled
The Road to Success
We have worked hard to streamline the process to make this as easy as possible for independent trainers who are already over-worked. Applicants accepted will be listed on our site as Probationary Members. Those who have successfully completed the process will be listed as Certified Programs.
- Step One: complete online application
- Step Two: pay fees
- Step Three: receive a program manual and a full set of policies
- Step Four: create procedures for each policy and ensure that all qualifications are met
- Step Five: submit materials for review
- Step Six: successfully pass onsite inspection
How to Apply
The first step on the road to success is to complete the online application. The purpose of this is to gather necessary preliminary information and screen applicants. If accepted, you will be notified and given instructions regarding payment of application fees. There are no fees due until you have been accepted.
Stay tuned for opportunities to become a Regional Assessor. Those individuals who successfully certify, and have been members in good standing of the FSDS Outreach Network or staff for a minimum of 3 years will be eligible to apply to become a Regional Assessor.