Service Dogs

Ever thought about adopting one of the wonderful service dogs that have guided the blind, assissted in search and rescue, or worked in the K9 unit of a police force? These dogs have given many years of their lives to help people and some now need homes.

Or perhaps, as is more often the case, some of these special dogs that were initially intended to be service dogs, for one reason or another do not graduate. These dogs too are looking for forever homes.

A note about these types of dogs: whether it be a service, military, or police dog, they are extremely desirable, and because of that, are not always available for adoption. If you are interested in a former working dog, you may have a long wait. They are out there though, and if this is the type of dog you are most interested in adopting, here's the information you need to get started.

According to Delta Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving people's health and well-being through positive interactions with animals, the term “service” dog is defined to be consistent with the terminology in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA defines a service animal as any animal trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. This can include guiding a person with impaired vision or alerting a person with impaired hearing. An assistance dog will help by pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, and opening and closing doors. Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places. Service animals are not considered 'pets'.

Besides service dogs, those for the blind, the deaf, and those used to assist, a fourth type of dog that assists in the care of people is referred to as a therapy dog. By law, they are not considered a Service Dog, but still do important work. These dogs visit hospitals, care facilities, and nursing homes, with the purpose of cheering up patients.

Seeing Eye Guide Dogs

As you might imagine, standards for becoming a guide dog for the blind are very high. Not all puppies that are provided the training will qualify. This may be due to a medical condition or a behavior issue, such as hyper activity. These puppies usually are adopted by their puppy raisers. There are many more requests for these dogs than there are available dogs. Retired guide dogs for the most part either stay with their blind companion or are go to live with their puppy raiser. Again, there is more demand than supply for these dogs.

If you want to be put on a waiting list you may contact Guide Dogs for the Blind or Guide Dogs of America. There are times however that the waiting list becomes so long, that applicants are not accepted.

Hearing Dogs

Dogs for the Deaf, Inc located in southern Oregon takes four to six months to train their hearing dogs. The dog alerts his owner to sounds in their home environment and in public provides an increased awareness. When the dog turns to look at something it hears, the owner will notice and turn to see what's happening as well.

There is a long wait for hearing dogs for the deaf - up to five years! So you can imagine there are not a lot of these dogs up for adoption as pets.

You may contact the Adoption Coordinator at (541) 826-9220 or email with further questions. You may also download an application at their website:

NEADS (Dogs For Deaf and Disabled Americans), of Princeton, MA is another organization that sometimes has what are affectionately called "flunk out" dogs that need adoption. You can download an applicaiton at their website Be aware that the fee for these dogs is $800 to $1000 and you may have a long wait. The dogs are not offered on a "first come, first serve" basis. The dog's trainer tries to match the dog's physical characteristics and personality to the individual information received on the application. Also, preference is given to those in the New England area.

Dogs for Deaf and Disabled

NEADS also provides other types of service dogs including social dogs that are used for therapeutic purposes, balance dogs that help people who use canes or crutches, and military dogs that assist our wounded veterans.

Another agency that sometimes needs homes for their dogs is Texas Hearing and Service Dogs. Visit their website at and click on the "Adopt a dog" icon. This is a non-profit organization that was founded 21 years ago and has trained Hearing and Service Dogs to assist Texans living with disabilities.

Police Dogs

I checked the K9 Global Training Academy Working Dogs site where they train bomb, mine, and drug detector dogs, patrol, tracking, and police K9s, search & rescue, termite, and arson dogs. Currently they have a big headline stating they have no dogs for adoption by the public.

Drug Dogs, Bomb Dogs, & K9 Training.

Search and Rescue Dogs

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is one of those wonderful agencies that rescues, trains, and then places their dogs with handlers who are involved with search and rescue. These dogs search for lost people and those missing in natural disasters. As with any service dog, not all the dogs graduate from the program. Some dogs turn out to have previously undetected medical conditions and some just don't have the proper temperament for the task. The Search Dog foundation cares for all their dogs for the dog's entire life, from rescue through retirement.

If you are interested in becoming a Lifetime Care Home and adopting one of the dogs that didn't graduate from the program, visit their site to fill out an application, or if you have questions, contact them by phone or email - 888/459-4376 /

SAR dog adoption

Military Working Dogs

What could be better than caring for a dog that has put his life on the line for our country and military personnel?

As with service dogs, not all puppies trained will make the final cut. If they fail to meet training standards they will be put up for adoption. Some are released from the program because of a medical condition and of course the others will need a forever home once they retire from service.

Military working dogs are trained at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They are deployed along with a handler in some of the most war torn areas of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. These dogs have been trained in patrol and drug and explosive detection.

Once retired, the adoption law gives priority first to civilian law enforcement agencies, then to prior handlers, and lastly to the general public. You can contact Lackland Air Force Base via email or phone (210) 671-5874 to request an application. There is no adoption fee, but you must pay for your and the dog's transportation to and from the base. The National K9 Enforcement Rescue Organization (N.E.R.O.) is a retirement home for retired or disabled working dogs (Police, Military or S.A.R.) who are not able to continue working. The agency focuses solely on the adoption of retired working dogs.

Service Dog Resources Throughout the U.S. (by State)

You can find a list of service and assistance dog websites where you'll find resources for Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Support Dogs, and Search and Rescue Dogs.

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