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Letter: Service dogs can change lives

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Thank you for publishing the article entitled “Families defrauded by unregulated service dog trainers” on May 3. The article includes information about the dangers of dealing with disreputable service dog trainers and organizations. There is no state or federal certification for service dogs or trainers.

As the current president of the board of Saint Francis Service Dogs located in Roanoke where it was founded in 1996, I would like to explain how a reputable organization such as ours is run and the benefits to our partners.

The article does not mention that there is a voluntary, comprehensive accreditation process that is offered to nonprofit service dog organizations through Assistance Dogs International. The mission of ADI is to establish and promote standards of excellence in all areas of assistance dog training and partnership. Saint Francis has been accredited since 2007. Most accredited programs, including Saint Francis, do not charge for service dogs.

Saint Francis dogs undergo years of training to make sure they are healthy, happy working dogs. Our dogs are trained to high standards by professional dog trainers so they will succeed in helping their partner. A service dog does not solicit attention in public, beg in a restaurant, and under no circumstances should ever be aggressive towards people or animals.

To qualify for a service dog, applicants undergo a screening process and home visit to ensure that the person needs a service dog and is able to provide a suitable home. People interested in a Saint Francis Service Dog do not pay for their dog, but they do have to pass the screening, commit to extensive training and maintain follow-up contact with Saint Francis for their lifetime of their partnership with a Saint Francis Service Dog.

A well-selected and well-trained service dog can change a person’s life in ways that are large and small- and always profound. I have personally seen lives changed for the better with a highly trained service dog. For more information about accreditation and accredited organizations, contact ADI at For more information about Saint Francis Service Dogs, please visit our website at





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