Our Commitment to Outreach and Innovation
In Feb. 2008 the FSDS filed papers with the AZ Corporation Commission and received our charter. We began with nothing more than a vision of how we may be able to address some gaps in services to individuals with disabilities who required service dogs. Not the least of these gaps was the issue of a lack of outreach services as well as reciprocity between existing programs for teams who relocated to a new geographic region.
Our efforts began with the Outreach Evaluator Network, designed to place qualified SD Evaluators in remote and under-served areas across the nation. These Evaluators would also address the needs of individuals who relocate and must re-take the certification test every three years in order to maintain their team certification as current. To date, we have accepted 115 Evaluators into this network. These Evaluators are carefully screened, and provided updates and service dog education on a monthly basis.
Our next effort was to expand the services to these Evaluators, by offering those small training business owners who provide SD training in their communities the opportunity to become an FSDS certified program. This recently launched initiative provides support to small programs who are seeking to build robust and credible programs but lack the staffing and resources to start from scratch, and is the only program of its type in the nation to serve this population of programs. Our program offers a comprehensive set of policies, annual OSHA training for staff and guidance as needed. All programs in our network will offer reciprocity to other member programs and provide reciprocity for teams who relocate after certification, as well as teams who must relocate in the middle of their training and complete their training with a new program. In addition to this, our network, once fully operational, will connect trainers in various regions so that they can share tips and serve as a referral source to each other.
This month we are pleased to welcome a new program to our network:
MuttSchool: located in Kansas; operated by Mary Hager, BA, CPDT-KSA, KPA CTP, CTDI, a highly qualified trainer with over 20 years of experience in training canines at all levels.
We continue to grow and have expanded our online education program to offer a comprehensive SD Trainer Academy. This very unique program is specifically designed to nurture a generation of elite service dog trainers. Our program offers training certification at four levels including Novice, Jr. , Sr. and Master Instructor levels. This program provides education regarding training skills, understanding disabilities, business set-up and building, record keeping, canine behavior, classroom management, nurturing future trainers, policy and procedure and more.
Like a puzzle, where all pieces must fit neatly together, we continue to grow in an organized manner with each new service building upon the last, and with an eye towards providing support to those teams that have been previously underserved or simply unserved.
An Important Note About Service Dogs
We all have “red lines” and this past month a red line we have drawn was crossed.
It is important to pause here and provide some clarity for all regarding the meaning of a SD Team. In order to be considered a SD team, two conditions must be met:
- The individual must have a condition that meets the ADA definition of disability.
- The dog must be “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability”. (ADA National Nework)
Due to the increasing concern over the presence of “fake SDs” in public, several states have enacted laws making misrepresentation as a SD team a criminal offense.
In the month of May the FSDS received a letter of request. We are removing all names to protect the identity of the parties involved, but feel that using the details only, exclusively for the purposes of education, is important. We were informed that a prior recipient passed away. The former student trainer has adopted the dog. We were informed in writing that the dog is now with the former student, who has “registered the dog as a service dog” at his/her new location, out of state. That state recently enacted a law that makes misrepresentation as a SD team a criminal offense.
A family member requested that the FSDS provide them with a letter stating that the dog graduated from our program so that they can prove to their landlord that dog is a SD. That person lives in an entirely different state which has also enacted similar legislation. Thus, the FSDS was asked to provide a letter that could be used for the purpose of covering up a violation of a state law.
We refused…and we reported. We are saddened to learn of this activity. Adopting a SD that had been partnered with another person does not imply that the dog is now your SD and can be presented in public as such. We have a deep and abiding respect for the law and will continue to ensure that we, as an organization, promote proper training and certification and at all times adhere to the laws that exist. We will not take any action that may be construed as participation in the cover up of a crime. We remind all readers that in the event that the handler for a SD passes away and you adopt the dog, they are not automatically your SD. If you have a qualifying disability, then you must ensure that the dog receives the individual training to assist with your disability that is required under the law. If not, the dog is adopted as a pet dog.
CB8 Class – this class is now our advanced class, and are currently hard at work on public access skills. Recently the class traveled to IKEA to familiarize the dogs with some of the sights and sounds of a busy public location.
CB9 Class – we are currently accepting applications from prospective student trainers and are also seeking puppies for this class, which is expected to start in the Fall of 2018. Stay tuned for exciting news!
SUMMER VACATION: Attention students – classes are in recess for June 16 and 23 for the annual summer vacation. Wishing you all safe travels, wherever your vacation break takes you.
Dorjee Memorial Scholarship Winner 2018
We are delighted to announce that after much deliberation,the winner of the Dorjee Memorial Scholarship is Betty Davis, of Mesa, AZ. Betty comes from a family of military veterans and first responders, and has been involved with the disability community from an early age due to the medical issues faced by her cousin. She has a heart for helping others, and is looking forward to her training and an ability to reach out and help improve the lives of Arizonans in need. In addition to the required coursework, she will complete her required 300 hours of hands-on training with the CB9 class.
This scholarship was provided through the generosity of Dr. Margaret Brown. Dr. Brown is a military veteran, and now works as a physician at the Tucson VA Hospital. She has provided the funding in loving memory of Dorjee, the first service dog for her husband, also a military veteran.
Welcome to our Newest Canine Ambassador Team
We would like to extend a warm welcome to our newest ambassador team, Jacob Cosper and Sully. Jacob and Sully are 2018 graduates and excelled throughout their training. They have joined the FSDS team as ambassadors to participate in community presentations.
Jacob is a military veteran. He served in the Army, and while on combat deployment in Afghanistan he was injured in an IED explosion. Jacob suffered injuries to his spine, resulting in chronic mobility disabilities, hearing impairment and PTSD. He was granted an honorable discharge for medical reasons. After seeing his friends succeed with the assistance of a SD, Jacob took action and approached the FSDS for assistance. He looks forward to being able to move forward with Sully and today we are proud to award Sully to Jacob in appreciation of his outstanding services and sacrifices to our community and nation. Jacob is a true hero and a role model for our youth trainers.
Sully is a 2 yrs old purebred male Golden Retriever. Sully is bright and eager to please. He enjoys swimming, fetching and meeting new people.
June has arrived, and with it the “dog days” of summer. Here are some sensible and practical tips to keep your dog safe in the hot summer weather.
- Always protect your dog from hot cars, service dogs must accompany their handlers indoors for all routine errands and not be left alone even for a few moments in a hot car.
- When going for walks, remove your footwear and place your foot on the road surface; if it is too hot for you it is too hot for your dog and they must wear their thermal booties.
- Bring an ample supply of ice water with you for your dog when out even for short times; your dog is wearing a fur coat and can easily overheat.
- Protect your dog from sunburn by not allowing them outside in the sun for too long; speak with your veterinarian for advice on sunblocks and protecting your best friend.
- Bring a portable battery powered fan and a spray bottle of weather to keep your dog cool even if out at morning events, your dog can overheat easily and must be kept cool.
- Provide a durable life jacket for your dog when near water; if you are required to wear one, you should provide one for your dog.
- Monthly preventive treatments to protect from heartworm, fleas and ticks should be provided and select a product that will also protect from mosquito bites; you may want to consider a clip on mosquito repellent to protect both you and your SD during the rainy monsoon season.
…and remember that a SD should be on a leash and within 2 feet of the handler at all times when in public.
Our sincere thanks to the following:
- DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
- Valerie Schluter
- AZ Disabled Veterans Foundation
Your support of our program and those we serve is greatly appreciated!
June 2, 2018 – Classroom visit from the AZ Disabled Veterans Foundation.
Sept 4th, 2018 – presentation to the Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club