It’s estimated that there are around half a million service dogs in the USA. They’re a valuable asset to many people who have disabilities and there are a number of organizations out there working hard to provide these dogs to those who need them.
One such organization is New Horizons Service Dogs, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in central Florida, providing service dogs to the whole state.
Here’s everything you need to know about their wonderful work.
New Horizon Service Dogs’ main mission is to provide highly-trained dogs to the individuals that need them. Although the ADA does not require service dogs to be professionally trained, it’s a difficult task to do on your own. It’s better to go through an organization that has experience in training them — like this one.
Their main mission doesn’t just surround the dogs though. They also want to raise awareness about the needs and concerns of people that have disabilities as too often, people are ignorant to their struggles.
They also provide ongoing support to the people who take their dogs on, meaning there’s a lifelong relationship there.
Incredibly, since this organization is a nonprofit, they provide dogs at no cost to clients even though, on average, it takes $25,000-$30,000 to raise and train a service dog.
Training a service dog, after all, takes a lot!
Many people who have serious need of a service dog will have to raise the funds on their own, but New Horizons Service Dogs knows this isn’t fair and many people often can’t afford it.
There are certain restrictions they have. For example, they can’t train dogs to do any of the following:
Instead, their dogs are primarily intended to provide support to children in wheelchairs and some other disabilities that their training is suitable for (mainly mobility and balance problems). They’re trained with over 80 commands by the time they go to their new owner, and such work really benefits the person.
They also have specialized programs for certain groups, such as autistic children and veterans suffering from PTSD.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
They were founded in 1995, so have over 25 years of experience in the field of training service dogs.
The reason for their founding is due to the struggles of the founder, Janet Severt, also a service dog user. She is a C-5, C-6, C-7 quadriplegic and knows well the value of having a service dog.
New Horizons Service Dogs specifically trains Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. The training process is quite intense — the dogs even go to prisons to be raised by inmates for a while as well as move through a variety of foster homes, giving them experience in all different kinds of settings.
Those who have researched service animals and know that they must be calm in a variety of environments will know the importance of this. They must be under complete control at all times.
After the dogs have gone through training to learn their eighty commands and what exactly is expected of them in terms of behavior and service, they will meet potential recipients.
By the time the dogs are fully trained, the people aren’t! Part of receiving a service dog is learning how to communicate with them, and the organization will help you do this and make sure you get a fit for you. Not every service dog is right for every person.
Only people from the state of Florida can apply. You should also make sure you’re right for one of their service dogs and acknowledge what their service dogs are trained for.
If you’re not sure, it’s always good to ask. When it comes to how to get a service dog, there are no silly questions, as many people aren’t aware of the process and the people at New Horizons Service Dogs are the experts!
Don’t be afraid to contact them with initial questions if you’re thinking about taking the leap.
Even if you have a disability that you could use help with, a service dog may not be right for you. If you have allergies, for example, it may be impossible to get them under control.
You may not be a fan of dogs!
If you love dogs and need some help, you might be a candidate. More importantly, though, you should make sure you’re willing to put in the work.
Although a service dog from an organization like New Horizons will come fully trained, that doesn’t mean you pick up their leash and off you go. You’ll have to work to get to know the dog, just as the dog will get to know you.
This is a partnership that will last a lifetime and it’s very important to make sure you put the work in at the start to improve your communication and ensure you’re building the best possible relationship with your partner in everything.
It’s important to remember that even though a service dog comes highly trained, dogs are still big responsibilities. Your dog will need mental and physical outlets when they’re not helping you, and you’ll have to feed them and take care of vet bills. Since the average cost of raising a dog can get over $3000 in the first year alone, that’s no small feat!
If you’re young and still live with family, they can also help you. Your dog will bond to you most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for assistance in raising them.
If you’re wondering how you can help, you can donate to the organization directly or look at their Amazon wish list. They also welcome sponsorships and fundraising events.
Remember, they’re a nonprofit that spends a lot of time training animals, so they rely solely on the kindness of others to ensure they can get as many people as possible the support animals they need.
Another way that you can help is simply by spreading awareness. Find them on social media and share their posts when they’re looking for volunteers and donations — or simply share some heart-warming stories.
This will bring people to their website and the more visitors they get, the more they’re likely to reach the people that they need to.
There are a number of ways you can volunteer to help the organization. They carefully select puppies for their program and if you’re a breeder, you might want to send them an application to enter one of your own pups.
As well as that, they need people to help raise the puppies and engage in their service dog training.
There are also many other kinds of volunteers that the organization could use, including:
If you’re in any doubt about what you can do to help, then you can always reach out and ask! There are many things this organization could use.
Other types of service dogs include emotional support animals. Although New Horizons Service Dogs doesn’t provide these, other organizations do, and they’re very important to many people.
An emotional support animal helps someone with challenges involving their mental state that may give them a worse quality of life without the dog.
They may have tasks to perform or be a comfort simply by being there for someone.
Usually, the difference between a service and emotional support animal (ESA) is that while a service dog helps with physical disabilities, an emotional support animal helps with mental conditions. This may involve depression, anxiety, and a whole other lot of things.
They alleviate the symptoms and, unlike service dogs, emotional support animals are actually not just limited to dogs — though this is certainly the most common shape they come in!
If your doctor thinks an ESA might help you, then you can consider getting one. If you have allergies or don’t tend to be the biggest fan of animals then you can always say no and try another tactic.
It’s never an order, just a suggestion.
However, if you do decide to go ahead, then it’s important to do things properly. Not every dog will make a great ESA and it’s essential to pick the right one.
There is no specific training required for a dog to be an ESA but you should pick one with a good temperament. Shelters aren’t always a good idea since the staff is overwhelmed and not trained to pick out the correct dog for you.
Instead, going to a certified rescue is better. Rescues have staff who are trained in the breed and when you make your intentions clear, they’ll be able to find the right fit for you. If they don’t have one at that time, they may be able to take your contact information and call you when they think they have one that fits your needs.
You can also find an ESA from a breeder, but be very wary of backyard breeders. At a minimum, a good breeder should have the following:
Since ESA dogs don’t need specific training, you don’t need to be as selective as you would with a service dog. However, it’s important to pick a good with a good temperament and work with them to reach their full potential so they’ll be the best partner they could be.
ESAs don’t have the same rights as service dogs. For example, many airlines now don’t recognize emotional support animals as service dogs and they aren’t allowed to fly in the cabin.
Fortunately, landlords still have to make reasonable accommodations for emotional support dogs and can’t charge their tenants more for having one — as long as you have a prescription letter from your doctor.
Yes, if your doctor thinks it’s appropriate! They will still have to write you a prescription letter for that dog though.
Don’t forget to get your ESA registered with American Service Pets. 95% of their applicants qualify, and it’s worth doing to make sure you get what you need for your mental health.
If you’re looking for a physical service dog over an emotional support animal, New Horizons Service Dogs has provided a great service to Florida since 1995 and is showing no signs of slowing down soon.
Whether you want one of their dogs or you just want to help out, you can visit their website to see ways to volunteer and donate, as well as learn more about what they do.
If you’re looking to learn more about emotional service animals instead, check out the rest of our blog. We also have some service dog advice, including how to manage discrimination.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
More Great Resources
Enter your email for your code, plus other offers & updates from American Service Pets
Check your inbox for your discount code.
Please allow a few moments for delivery, and be sure to check your spam/junk folder if you don’t see it.