Frequently asked questions

Is HP4Ws a not-for-profit charity?


Yes, HP4Ws is a 501(c)3 tax exempt public charity.




What is our mission?


Healing Paws for Warriors (HP4Ws) provides U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) with Service Dogs, most of which are rescued from local shelters. The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once and inspires countless others.




How much will our program cost the veteran?


There will be absolutely no fees to the veteran during the placement and training period. We are committed to that. The only costs to the veteran would be transportation, housing and their own meals if they have to relocate to Florida during the training period. All of our dogs will be spayed, neutered, vaccinated and receive all recommended preventative medications prior to placement. If you are placed with a rescue dog, all veterinary services, and most supplies will be at no charge to the veteran during the training process. Following graduation, ownership of the rescue dog is transferred to the veteran who will then be responsible for costs and care.




Do I get to choose my own dog?


No. Healing Paws for Warriors trainers spend months training each dog prior to matching with a warrior.




Can I bring my own dog to be trained as a Service Dog?


No. Healing Paws for Warriors trainers spend months training each dog prior to matching the dog with a warrior. Our goal is to meet your needs and match you with the best fit. This training includes behavior modification, general obedience and manners, plus service dog and public access skills. The acquisition of these skills distinguishes a service dog from a pet. Not all dogs have the temperament to handle the stress of service work in public, and many pets lack the necessary training for service work.




What breeds do you accept into your program?


We have found that Labrador and Golden Retrievers, (Labradoodles for those with allergies) both pure and mixed breeds, have the best temperament and desire to please for service dog work.




Is it possible to certify my own dog as a service animal?


If you are in the US, there is no federal certification for service dogs and every single state has different regulations and standards. Some states do require certain testing, certification, and/or specific training. The ADI (Assistance Dogs International) public access test is sometimes used. You'll need to look these differences up for your area. For example, some states require that dogs be trained by a registered service dog organization, while in states, you have the authority to train the dog yourself, or with the assistance of any dog trainer, to be your service dog. A good resource for the laws in each specific state can be found here: www.animallaw.info You may find that many people don't know the specific laws about service animals. It is important that you look up and know the laws of your state, as referenced in the link above, and you should also be familiar with and adherent to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can find more information about that here: www.ada.gov The federal ADA law does specify that the individual with a service dog must have a disability which keeps them from doing a major life task (such as sleeping, talking, hearing, walking, working, leaving the house, socializing with others, etc), as PTSD and TBI often do. The dog must be trained to do at least 2 physical skills to help the person with those tasks. Some possible skills include opening doors; helping maintain or regain balance; alerting to anxiety, sounds, or panic attacks; fetching medication or help in an emergency; etc. There is a list of other examples here: http://www.iaadp.org/tasks.html NOTE: Please educate yourself and seek training for a dog before attempting to use a dog as a service animal. Healing Paws for Warriors ALWAYS recommends obtaining a dog from a reputable program and not attempting to train and use a dog as a service animal without the guidance of a professional.




Where do you get the dogs for your Service Dog Program?


Healing Paws for Warriors obtains their dogs from shelters, rescue organizations, private donors and area breeders.




Do you accept dogs as donations?


While there are a number of great candidates offered to us on a regular basis, Healing Paws for Warriors does not operate as a kennel or shelter. We do not keep candidates on our premises at any time, and are working tirelessly to help as many dogs as possible find their way out of the stressful shelter environment. Whether they go home as a service animal in training or as a pet, we are happy any time one more shelter dog finds their forever home.




What and how is qualification accomplished?


We qualify our service dogs by training them to meet criteria compatible with the CGC and Public Access Tests, require a minimum of three (3) service tasks that the dog performs and we give our veteran a written exam with questions dealing with proper health care, husbandry, and training techniques of their dog. We also examine the veteran on their knowledge of the ADA laws. When all of these are accomplished, our veteran and their dog graduate and the dog qualify as a service dog.




How do you evaluate dogs for your program?


When a dog is first brought to our attention, we learn as much as we can over the phone: vitals, history, sociability with people and other animals, etc. Then one of our trainers evaluates the dog in person, for a hands-on assessment of the dogs: personality, sociability, train-ability, obedience knowledge, manners, etc. Dogs showing any sign of aggression or severe anxiety issues are immediately declined. In addition all potential Healing Paws for Warriors candidates are subject to 72 hour further evaluation.




Where are Service Dogs permitted?


It is REQUIRED under federal and state laws that Service Dogs be permitted to accompany their disabled owner anywhere the general public is allowed to go, including: restaurants, schools, buses, taxis, airplanes, stores, movie theaters, concerts, sporting events, doctor’s offices, etc. Service Dogs are allowed in hospital patient rooms, but are excluded from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment. See Resource Page for more ADA Service Animal Laws.




How does a Service Dog help a warrior with PTSD?


Anecdotal studies show as many as 80% of patients improve trigger-like symptoms. Some are even reducing or eliminating their need for medication. Warriors suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience the intense fear and horror they felt during traumatic conditions of war over and over again. These distressing recollections cause a variety of psychological disabilities, such as social avoidance, anxiety, emotional overload, depression, a general sense of foreboding, etc. Warriors with PTSD may have nightmares; or experience hypervigilance and exaggerated responses to sudden noises or other triggers. At Healing Paws for Warriors, the service dogs are trained to perform work or tasks to mitigate the symptoms of PTSD and help the warrior return to civilian life and gain independence. Whereas a pet may be able to tell if his warrior is in distress, a service dog is trained to respond to this awareness by performing tasks to lessen the distress. Examples of these tasks include: licking, pawing or bringing a toy to break a disturbing episode; performing a sit/stay facing away from the warrior to ‘watch his back’; blocking an unwanted person from advancing too close by performing a stand/stay sideways in front of the warrior; forging ahead around a corner in front of the warrior; reminding the warrior to take medicine; safety checking a room before the warrior enters; or nudging the warrior while thrashing due to a nightmare. Each warrior has differing symptoms, so his or her service dog is trained for his or her specific disabilities.




Why do I need a Service Dog or a Therapeutic Companion Dog?


A Service Dog can help you recover and adjust back into civilian life easier if you experience:

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bad Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Uneasiness in crowded places
  • Irritability
  • Hypervigilance
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Reclusive behavior




What kind of tasks will my dog be trained to do and how is that going to help my symptoms of PTSD, TBI, or MST?


The following are a few examples of what a Service Dog could do for you:

  • Travel beside you in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, buses, etc. helping to ease any anxiety you may experience. **For service dogs only, in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
  • When in a crowded environment your dog will stay between you and another person creating additional space.
  • Helping to deal with several personal or public issues that may suddenly arise. An example might be the dog making physical contact in the event of rising anxiety.
  • The necessity of paying attention to your dog in various public settings allows you to be less vigilant.
  • Help aid you in unstable walking situations.
  • Pick objects up off the floor for you.




What is a Service Dog?


Since the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, service animals have been recognized and protected by both Federal and State Laws. In March, 2011, revisions to the ADA excluded all animals but dogs (and miniature horses in special provisions) as service animals; and defined Service Dogs as: “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Physical and mental disabilities are included in this definition. To be considered a service dog, the dog must be trained to perform tasks directly related to the person’s disability; helping the person to do something he or she could not otherwise do in terms of a daily life activity. Providing emotional support or comfort, although proven to be beneficial for people, would not be acknowledged as a trained “task” by the Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA. Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with a trained skill, such as pawing, nudging or grounding during an anxiety attack, is an example of a trained service dog task. Service dogs are working animals, not pets. Service dogs have legally defined public access rights, meaning they are permitted to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Denying a service dog access is a Civil Crime of the Federal ADA Laws, and a Criminal Crime under Florida State laws.




How does a Service Dog differ from an Emotional Support Animal or a Therapy Dog?


A Service Dog is defined and protected by law as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of his owner. A service dog requires a great deal of specialized training; is considered an assistive device by the ADA, and is permitted to accompany his disabled owner anywhere the public is permitted. Service Dogs fall under the broader category of Assistance Dogs, which also includes Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf. A Service Dog has been trained to perform a minimum of three (3) tasks specific to its handler’s disability. It is allowed by law to accompany its handler to public places such as the veteran’s work place, restaurants, buses, stores etc. These are rights set forth in the American Disability Act (ADA). An Emotional Support Animal is prescribed by a person’s doctor who feels that the presence of the animal will improve his disabled patient’s mental health. Little or no training is required. Similar to pets, these dogs do not have to perform tasks for their disabled owner, nor do they have public access rights. A Therapy Dog is a pet that has been trained to accompany his owner to visit facilities like hospitals and nursing homes for the benefit of the people living or staying there. A therapy dog is legally a pet, and does not have public access rights without the permission of a facility owner. A Therapeutic Companion Dog will not be allowed to enter most public venues. Exceptions are airplane cabins and living in non-pet friendly housing.




Which dog is best for me?


The Service Dog is for handlers with PTSD who need the medical benefit of their dog on a constant basis. The Therapeutic Companion Dog will benefit the veteran while at home and in areas where any dog is allowed. They will be trained with specific tasks to help the veteran cope with their PTSD.





Healing Paws for Warriors

(850) 716-8198

info@healingpawsforwarriors.org

P.O. Box 4373, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549

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