SERVICE DOGS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS!
Who is Smoky Mountain Service Dogs?
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to: "Enhance the Physical and Psychological Quality of Life for Veterans with Disabilities by Providing Custom Trained Mobility Assistance Service Dogs"
What Type of Service Dogs are Trained by SMSD?
SMSD custom trains dogs for mobility assistance for Veterans with disabilities. We do not train dogs for the following:
- Guide the blind.
- Detect seizures.
- Detect diabetic crisis.
- Detect medical symptoms.
- Provide supervision, navigation, or safety from environmental hazards.
- Respond aggressively or provide personal protection.
- general disabilities such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, etc.
What is the service area of Smoky Mountain Service Dogs?
Our normal service area is a 350 mile radius or an approximate 6 hour drive from Knoxville, Tennessee. Please note that we do have the ability to OVERRIDE the service area with SMSD board approval when the applicant meets the application criteria and is approved by the SMSD application. It is imperative that our trainers be able to work extensively with the veteran/canine teams throughout the training process as well as after camp ends and the team goes home. This service area allows SMSD to do home visits as part of the application process and also for trainers to be able to do remedial training visits after placements in the event of problems that can't be corrected by phone or video.
What is the law regarding service dogs access to public places?
Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Tennessee law, all businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. Additional charges for admitting the service dog to an establishment or fares for transportation cannot be required. Only religious facilities and residential facilities may refuse service dog entry.
In order to meet ADI standards a service dog must:
Be trained to perform at least three tasks to mitigate the client's disability. The client must also be provided with enough training to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. The client must be able to demonstrate:
- That their dog can perform at least three tasks.
- Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
- An understanding of canine care and health.
- The ability to maintain training, problem solve, and continue to train/add new skills (as required) with their service dog.
- Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.
What type of dogs does Smoky Mountain Service Dogs Use?
The majority of our dogs will be Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers and will come from reputable breeders. SMSD will, when appropriate, use rescue/shelter dogs. All dogs are selected by our Trainer/Consultants and must also be approved by our Veterinarian.
What Is The Value Of A Public Access Tested/Approved Service Dog?
Industry cost to select, raise, train, and place a public access tested/approved service dog is estimated to be $20,000 to $25,000. Producing a Smoky Mountain Service Dog requires approximately 1500 to 1800 hours of training, supervised by our Trainers/Consultants. Volunteer puppy raisers, puppy socializers, and intermediate foster families also spend countless hours teaching our dogs basic obedience and proper canine etiquette.
What is the cost of a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?
We place our dogs at no cost to our veterans other than associated fees (lodging, some meals and travel). VA Service Dog Benefits will cover most of these associated fees, and SMSD will assist in guiding the veteran in applying for those benefits through the VA.
What is the application process to acquire a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?
There is no charge for the service dog as described above. There are five steps in the application process:
- Step one: complete the Preliminary application on the website and submit. You will receive a response within one week.
- Step two: You will be contacted by the SMSD Veteran Liaison for a telephone interview within a three week period and, if appropriate, you will receive a Full application. Once all paperwork is received by the SMSD Application team, your approval or decline for the next step will be done within a six week period. All applicants that SMSD cannot serve are referred to the ADI organization member list.
- Step three: If veteran is approved, a home visit will be scheduled. Timing of this visit varies due to the activities of SMSD and the personal schedule of the Veteran and his/her family. This can take up to six weeks or longer.
- Step four: After the home visit, the veteran will be matched to a service dog in training. This match can take up to one year.
- Step five: Training camp is scheduled after dog match is made and is dependent on SMSD activities and veterans personal schedule. This can take up to 6 months but SMSD prefers to conduct camps as soon as we feel the matched dog is ready for appropriate placement. At the conclusion of camp, a graduation ceremony is conducted and the Transfer of Ownership of the service dog is passed to the veteran.
SMSD reserves the right to decline any application at any time during the application and placement process
What are the estimated costs associated with owning a service dog?
Initial costs: $100-$500 (food/water bowls, grooming supplies, dog bed, toys). Yearly expenses: $600-$1,600 (vaccines, food, heartworm/flea preventative, grooming, treats, leashes, etc.).
Who trains Smoky Mountain Service Dogs?
Dog selection is the responsibility of the SMSD Canine Program manager. The majority of our dogs come from reputable breeders who strive to breed dogs with the size, temperament etc. conducive to excellent service dogs. The training of our dogs is done by trained volunteers and SMSD professional trainers. Our puppies are raised by volunteer puppy raisers for nine to 12 months. During that time, they learn basic obedience and level one skills. They are then rotated into the kennel where our professional trainers take over all advanced training levels for approximately six months. They are then moved to advanced foster homes where their skills are practiced on a daily basis in the home and in public. Training classes for both our dogs and our volunteers are ongoing throughout the entire training process to ensure that each dog is trained to the highest standard. They are ready for placement between two and three years of age.
How is Smoky Mountain Service Dogs Funded?
SMSD is an all-volunteer organization (with the exception of our trainers) and is funded by private contributions from individuals, groups, and corporations. We also seek grants from corporations and foundations. We also conduct several fund raising events annually.
Can you train my pet dog to be a service dog?
We do not train dogs outside of the SMSD program.
How old are your dogs when matched with their partner?
Our dogs will be placed at approximately two years of age. This may change somewhat depending on the amount of specialized training necessary for the dog/partner team.
Who can apply for a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?
Any disabled veteran with an honorable discharge who has a service connected physical disability such as limb loss, TBI that would require the skills of a mobility assistance service dog. All applicants must be approved by our Client Application Team. All applicants must be able to demonstrate that a service dog will enhance their quality of life and independence.
I am a Disabled Veteran, why should I work with my Veterans Affairs specialist as I apply?
You may qualify for benefits related to service dog training and care that are available only to Veterans enrolled through the Department of Veterans Affairs. By applying through your rehabilitation specialist, you ensure that you will receive all applicable benefits.
How do I apply for a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?
Please go to the Application Process section of our website and click on START HERE.
How long will I have to wait for a service dog?
It is our goal to match the right dog with the specific needs of each recipient. For that reason, our Client Application Team reviews each recipient application and your wait time will depend on us having a dog that can best suit your specific needs. Another determining factor will be the amount of specialized training required to meet your needs.
When my service dog is ready for retirement, how long would I have to wait for a replacement?
Applicants seeking a successor service dog are given priority in screening and placement.
SMSD has been awarded Accreditation by Assistance Dogs International. This validates that the facilities and operation of the SMSD program meets or exceeds ADI standards.