How to Apply for a Service Dog

Service dogs assist people with disabilities to perform tasks throughout the day that they cannot perform themselves. To apply for a service dog, you'll need to find an organization that trains dogs to assist people with the disability you are dealing with and fill out their application in person or online. After filling out the application, the organization will contact you to set up further interviews and determine if they have a dog that is suitable for your needs.

Find an Appropriate Organization

Visit the Assistance Dogs International website, which lists various nonprofit organizations that provide service dogs by country and state. You can see check the Shore Service Dogs or Paws and Stripes website, which lists organizations that provide service dogs by type. Each type of dog performs tasks specific to a recipient's disability, including vision problems, hearing issues or problems with mobility.

All service dogs must go through rigorous training, but not all organizations provide the same types of service dogs. Contact them each individually to see if they can provide you with a dog who can assist you with your type of disability.

Fill Out the Application

Complete the application or application request form for the service dog organization you choose. The form may be available online or it can be mailed. Many organizations require some type of screening form to determine if you meet their basic age and physical requirements before sending you an application packet.

The application likely will ask you to describe the nature of your disability and provide a signed statement from your physician attesting to it. You will also need to provide professional and personal references.

To demonstrate your ability to properly care for a service dog, you will need to describe your financial situation. The financial information you need to provide may include your assets, income and debts.

Continue Through the Application Process

The entire process for the initial review of the application may take several months because of the intensive screening process most service dog organizations have. You likely will have to go through several interviews by phone and in person.

The representative you deal with will want you to demonstrate that:

  • You are able to handle a service dog.
  • You can provide him with a stable home.
  • You can participate in training with him.

Later in the process, a representative may inspect your home to determine if it is acceptable for a service dog. Most organizations allow for other pets but do not allow you to have another dog in the home. Note that the home inspections and other interviews could take an additional 24 months.

Wait for a Response

After reviewing your written materials and interviews, a committee will decide whether you are a good candidate for one of their service dogs. At this point, the organization will either approve or deny your application.

You likely will be put on a waiting list for a dog if your application is approved due to the high volume of applicants and the expense of training the dogs. Due to long waiting lists, the organization may take several years to get you a qualified dog.