Apply for a Service Dog

Please read the entirety of this page before submitting your application. Most of your questions should be answered on this page. 

Please Note: The initial review of the online application can take up to 4 weeks. Please be patient and we will get back to you as quickly as possible!

The following details the process of applying for a service dog, the waiting time and the handler training process. Please review the adjacent list of frequently asked questions.

 The Application Process

The first step is to submit your application online. Our applications team will review your online submission.  If we believe a dog could be a good fit for you, we will reach out to request additional documentation from your medical provider and a personal referral. Once we have all documents back in our office and reviewed, we will ask for a simple home video from you. We promise the video will be easy and well worth it. But first, the online application submission form is on the following page.

If your application and documentation lead us to believe that one of our dogs can assist you, we will schedule a phone interview and consultation. The interview and consultation allows us to ask any further questions to ensure a good fit with our program and will allow us to confirm that you have realistic expectations of how a service dog can assist you. This gives us the opportunity to explain what an average day with a service dog will be like by going over the details of a regular day for you and the different tasks the service dog would need to be trained in to assist you.

If you, your medical provider, and Little Angels Service Dogs still agree that a service dog is in your best interest, we would then write out a customized contract with all the details for you to review. This is when we would ask you to take your time and discuss all of your options with friends and family. We want to make sure this is the right decision for you. You can take days, or even months to weigh your options. A service dog can bring life-changing assistance to someone living with a disability, but it is a decision that will affect you for the life of the dog.

If you decide to move forward, we would have you return the contract with a minimum deposit of $500. We then begin the process of fundraising. For each dog we train, it costs our program an average of $60,000. We ask our recipients to be responsible for $18,000 of that amount, which can be paid or fundraised with our guidance. By reaching this goal, you are able to ‘pay it forward’ and will help our program to continue placing dogs for years to come. We are happy to raise the additional funds for anyone who can’t raise the entire $60,000. Wait times vary based on fundraising and the training each dog needs to assist their recipient living with a disability.

Once the dog is done with its training, we work together with you over a 2-week period at one of our locations (California, Texas, or New Hampshire). These lessons are designed to be low-stress, fun, and practical. This training is for you and your dog to learn to work together in public and at home. This is also when you are certified to bring your dog with you into public settings.

Continued contact is required with training reports and training assessments throughout the rest of the dog’s life. We have a lifetime commitment to the dog and its support of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please carefully read through these questions before contacting us for further information. This should cover most of the information you will need to know before proceeding to our Application Hub. From there, you will learn more about each type of Assistance Dog and what they can do for you or your child. Thank you!

Is there a cost that recipients need to pay for the dog?

There is a $50 application fee which pays for the time it takes our team to review all submitted documents in detail. Once approved, the recipient may choose to join our waiting list with a $500 deposit. This deposit is applied toward the recipient’s minimum responsibility of $18,000. We believe the majority of recipients cannot simply write a check for this amount, so we will remain available to guide them through the process of fundraising. By reaching this goal, recipients help to ‘pay it forward’ so our program can continue placing assistance dogs for years to come. Little Angels will spend an average of $60,000 per dog we train. We are happy to raise any additional funds needed to reach the total of $60,000, but for any recipient that can remain involved in the fundraising process, wait times can be reduced.

How long is the waiting list?

Wait times vary based on several factors such as fundraising, economic climate, and the number of recipients on our list. After we have met the total financial goal, the recipient moves to the placement list. The placement list often has an average of 100 recipients waiting for a dog. Our goal is to place more than 24 dogs per year. Recipients do not necessarily receive dogs in order, but rather are offered a dog that is the best match when it becomes available. With all of these factors, we cannot give precise wait times as it varies from person to person and the dog best suited to assist them.

What is the process of fundraising?

Little Angels spends an average of $60,000 per dog we train. Much of this cost is funded through our efforts of seeking grants and general giving from generous donors. We also ask our recipients to help ‘pay it forward’ through a minimum financial commitment of $18,000. We do not expect that most recipients will be able to write a check for this amount so many will choose to fundraise. Our Director of Fundraising will work directly with any recipient interested in fundraising for our program, meeting through Zoom calls to find their best route for success and to give step-by-step instruction on how to pursue various avenues. These funds can be raised in many different ways such as sending letters to friends and family, setting smaller monthly goals, reaching out via social media, or holding local events. We will find a unique route specific to each individual recipient. Due to Little Angels’ nonprofit status as a 501c3 with the IRS, donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Many recipients reach their fundraising goal in a matter of months while others may choose to take a route that lasts over a period of years. A good number of recipients choose to continue fundraising past their minimum commitment, and we do see this reduces wait times.

What age does the recipient have to be in order to receive a dog?

Little Angels places dogs to assist children and adults. Recipients who are not able to be consistent in reinforcing the dog’s training will require a handler (facilitator) to care for the dog and issue commands to the dog for the assistance of the person living with a disability. Because of this, there is not necessarily an age requirement for the person living with a disability. Dogs can even alert to seizures in an infant as long as the parent is consistent with training reinforcement.

How does Little Angels determine the fundraising goal for each dog?

We certainly understand the sticker shock when it comes to the high expense of providing service dogs. It’s a lot of money! Organizations generally take the overall expenses of the program, and divide that by how many dogs they plan on placing in a year, to come up with the amount needed to keep the organization functioning that year. Many can’t see how so much money could possibly pour into one individual dog, but for any pet owners who have ever boarded their pet, for even a week, know that the cost is often similar to the expense of their own vacation. This is because there are so many staff members needed to care for the dog and provide enough enrichment for them to do well in a kennel environment. (Quick Math = if you boarded your pet for 3 years, at an average boarding fee of $50 a day, it comes to $54,750. And this is just basic boarding without veterinary or supplies. It also does not include the additional expenses to transform a dog into a service dog.) Some of our dogs are boarded at our kennel, while others are in foster homes or our prison programs. During the course of a dog’s training this often changes because it is healthy and productive for them to be in both environments, off and on. The dogs who are in foster homes or prison programs are cared for by volunteers, but still have many staff hours put into managing the fostering experience, with regular instruction and follow-ups with the volunteers. For the dogs fostered by dedicated inmates in our prison programs, we have staff who have weeks of travel expenses, due to the need to travel to the prisons for weeks at a time to instruct and oversee training and progress, as well as manage it administratively between trips. The travel expenses to the prisons often include airfare, or mileage and hotel expenses due to our long-distance relationships. Expenses for each dog will certainly include the initial adoption or whelping costs. If a litter is born from our own breeding program we have the yearly expenses of both parents of that litter, in addition to fees paid to the canine cryobank, veterinary, and supplies of whelping which is around $3,000 per litter, with an average litter size of 6 puppies (remember it also costs thousands to care for the parents throughout that year). If we are lucky enough to adopt a dog from a shelter we will have an adoption fee of $69. But if we purchase a puppy or dog from a breeder we pay between $2,000 – $5,000 per pup (we aren’t purchasing run-of-the-mill dogs for this program because they need to have proven lines of health-tested dogs for generations). Other direct expenses per dog will include boarding that dog for 2-3 years, an average of 600 one-on-one hours to train a dog, an additional average of 300 one-on-one hours for grooming and driving that individual dog to field trips, travel expenses of field trips, supply runs, and veterinary visits. Then we have direct supplies (such as leashes, vests, collars, tags, microchips, booties, crates, toys, harnesses), veterinary procedures, health clearances, medications, and the food that goes into each individual dog, in addition to the trainer’s time during handler training when the recipient learns to work with their dog. Then there is all of the administrative staffing required for the behind-the-scenes work (excluding application reviews which end up paying for themselves, hence the $50 application fee). Our administrative team collaboratively returns voice mails, conducts phone consultations, oversees human resources, manages social media and our website, supports the recipients on our waiting lists, coordinates fundraising, and together will answer close to 300 emails every day! This alone requires 5 full-time staff (who work with people, rather than the dogs themselves). The administrative costs also do not end when the dog is finished with training, but continues for the lifetime of the dog. Training costs also continue because we offer free refresher training, at any time, to any recipient, as well as availability to reach a trainer 7 days a week, for the life of the dog. There are also the expenses related to the facilities themselves; the lease payments, utilities, and kennel upkeep such as fencing repairs and landscaping. Insurance is also very expensive both for workers’ compensation of employees working in a high-risk related industry, commercial auto, and for the high liability we are exposed to in having so many dogs out in public settings throughout the United States. While these expenses are quite enough on their own, we also have the exact same expenses for dogs who never make it as service dogs, which are also included into the grand total. The fact that we do have so many amazing volunteers is what lowers our expenses to the total of $60,000 per dog that we place. While every nonprofit has financial statements available on the internet, I often encourage the public to do an internet search to question how much it costs for the largest service dog organizations in the world to place each dog. We won’t mention any names here, but think of the largest, most widely recognized organizations, type in the exact name of that organization, and go from there. This is a good comparison because they are also openly transparent online that it costs them anywhere from $50,000 – $80,000 per dog they place. Anyone can find this easily on the internet.

We are hopeful this paints a small picture of why this industry is faced with such high fundraising goals across the world. There is quite a bit that goes into each working team.

Can the dog attend school with my child?

There are certain situations where service dogs can attend school with a child. If the child cannot safely control the dog on their own, there is no legal advocacy for the dog to attend. However, some schools will voluntarily allow the dog to attend school when a staff member volunteers to handle the dog between classes.

What can the dog do?

While our dogs are highly trained, they are not robots. Our recipients and handlers receive very detailed instruction on how to properly reinforce the training their dog has received. Our dogs respond to commands, but they are not responsible. They cannot be relied on to protect or guide individuals away from harm. They care for their recipients, but they are not caregivers. It is the handler’s responsibility to care for the dog, and in return the dog will perform tasks to assist the recipient. Our dogs are trained for each individual’s needs. We train dogs to assist with seizures, autism, hearing, diabetes, PTSD for veterans and civilians, extreme anxiety disorders, and mobility for those with or without a wheelchair. Some of these tasks include retrieving items, opening/closing doors, turning on/off lights, dialing assistance dog phones, retrieving phones, bracing for balance while walking/transferring/getting up off the floor, providing non-protective boundary control, going around corners in advance of the recipient, alerting to specific sounds, tether and search training for autism assistance, and providing deep pressure therapy. We also actively train our dogs to recognize and alert to seizures, drops and rises in blood sugar, panic/anxiety attacks, and nightmares and flashbacks. We successfully use scent training which allows our dogs to recognize seizures in advance for many individuals with epilepsy. This depends on the type, frequency, and activity of the seizures which will be discussed in the phone consultation.
We do not train dogs to work for or guide the blind, or to alert to food allergies.

What about travel and expenses?

The costs for travel expenses are separate from the amount raised for the service dog itself. Recipients who do not live close to one of our facilities will need to travel and stay near us for the two weeks of handler training. Travel expenses vary and are the responsibility of the recipient.

What will the dog be like?

Little Angels has a breeding program consisting of English Labrador Retrievers and English Cream Golden Retrievers. We also rescue suitable dogs whenever possible, or purchase quality puppies from outside of our own breeding program such as Poodles, doodles, Bichon Frises and Coton de Tulears. Rescued dogs are often Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Shepherds, Poodles or mixes of any of these breeds. All dogs are fully medically screened for good hip and elbow joints, spine, good vision, heart and other medical concerns associated with that specific breed. Most service tasks require a larger breed dog weighing an average of 60 pounds, but some assistance tasks would allow a 10 pound dog to be suitable. If there are any dog allergies within the recipient’s home we will place a hypoallergenic dog such as a Poodle, doodle, Bichon Frise or Coton de Tulear. Poodles and doodles come in all sizes, some of which are even larger than Labradors. Our Bichons and Cotons are closer to 10 pounds. All of our dogs have their own individual personalities. Some are laid back, while others are playful. All of our dogs understand the difference between work and play. When they are not working they relax and play just like other dogs. We place each dog to match the personality of the recipient.

What if I have other animals?

We will place our service dogs in homes with other pets on a case-by-case basis. We consider the species, personalities and traits of each individual animal for the safety of all involved. Our dogs are regularly trained around other dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and sometimes even horses.

What are the requirements for receiving a dog?

Applications are reviewed on an individual basis by qualified staff to determine the recipient will not be hindered by the dog, the dog will be properly cared for, and the dog will be able to assist the recipient appropriately. All applicants are considered regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, or creed.

How is my information protected?

Any sensitive information provided will be kept confidential and only shared with Little Angels staff who require the information to review your application and/or train and place a service dog. Information will not be disclosed without express permission of the applicant and/or recipient.

I am under 18-years-of-age. Can I submit an application?

While we do place assistance dogs with minors, we will need a legal guardian to submit an application on behalf of the minor. We cannot accept an application if it is submited by anyone under 18.