How do I apply for a Service Dog?

The Application Process and a Request for Application can be found online at this site. For answers to more detailed questions, send e-mail to ssd @, or call (717) 599-5920.

How do I apply to become a Puppy Raiser?

The Responsibilities of a Puppy Raiser and the Application can be found online.

How do I recognize an Assistance Dog?

Most Assistance Dogs wear a special harness, vest, backpack or tags, with identification of the fact that they are a Service Dog, Hearing Dog or Guide Dog.

How do I know a Service Dog is safe to be around?

Service Dogs are carefully screened for temperament and stability before they are trained and placed with a person with a disability. These dogs are professionals, who are able to focus on their human partners and their work.

How can I help the Susquehanna Service Dog program?

There are a large number of opportunities to volunteer, including puppy hugging, puppy sitting, puppy raising, fundraising, special events, public demonstrations, kennel assistance and much more. Learn more or apply to volunteer.

How can I provide financial support for SSD?

Whatever your level of interest, SSD welcomes your contribution. Some folks designate contributions (which are sometimes eligible for matching funds from many employers and fraternal organizations) toward general operating expenses, or sponsor such things as food, veterinary care, harnesses, special door-opening devices, training resources, crates, toys, newsletters and publicity materials. Formal corporate and large-gift opportunities include: sponsoring a dog, providing in-kind services (dog food, veterinary care, dog treats and toys), advertising sponsorships for events and other opportunities listed on the Sponsorships page. For more information contact us via e-mail at ssd @, phone at 717-599-5920, or mail:

Susquehanna Service Dogs
1078 Gravel Hill Road
Grantville, PA 17028

Please consider leaving SSD a legacy in your will.

Where can I find more information about Service Dogs?

SSD is a member of ADI (external website). Visit their site to learn about the standards and ethics that SSD follows. The Delta Society (external website) is another good source for finding lists of member programs. For information from the partner's view, go to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (external website).

Does Susquehanna Service Dogs want to train my dog to become a Service Dog?

We do not currently have an owner-trained service dog program.

What is done with a dog which is discharged? What will happen to him?

If you want to adopt an SSD puppy after we decide that it will not be a service dog, you may. The dog will be neutered prior to adoption. Because of the costs of veterinary care and other expenses, we ask for an adoption fee of $1,000. Learn more about adopting a released dog.

What is done with a Service Dog who becomes too old to perform their duties?

If necessary, we will find a suitable pet home for the dog in their "sunset years." The dog may also stay with the owner. Most dogs "retire" once they reach about 10 years of age.

What is the length of the training process?

Formal training generally takes about eight months. Much of the details of training depends on how much work the Puppy Raiser Family has done with the dog while he was in their care. And since the skills for which the dog is trained are tailored to the person, some dogs may require additional training time to ensure consistent, long-term performance.

What is the cost of a Service Dog?

It costs over $25,000 to breed, raise, train, certify and place a service dog. However, SSD requires individuals to pay a $5,000 fee, which can be provided by the client or by a third party. SSD can also provide help and guidance on how to raise funds and will help the candidate apply for grants or available funding. Need-based scholarship assistance is available.

SSD has a limited amount of scholarship money available each year to offset the cost of receiving an assistance dog. These funds are available only to residents of Pennsylvania. Individuals who live outside or who are not legal residents of the state of Pennsylvania must pay the full $5,000 fee for service. To request these funds, you must submit a copy of your most recent 1040 Federal Income Tax form with your application. It is assumed that individuals applying for a scholarship have exhausted all other avenues for funding.

What is the length of the waiting list for a service dog?

Many factors affect how long it will take to provide the right dog for you. Among them are the work that your dog will be doing and the size and temperament of dogs currently at various stages of the training process. Once the application process is complete and you have been approved to receive a dog, a dog is hand-picked from those who are about to enter the formal training phase. In general, the waiting period tends to be two years from the receipt of the application by SSD.

When is a dog DISCHARGED from the SSD program?

A dog can be discharged from the program if:

  1. hip X-rays and elbows are not satisfactory;
  2. temperament problems demonstrate that a dog is too shy, too aggressive, or too protective (these problems can show up as a dog matures);
  3. skin allergies develop which can be too big a problem to be handled by a person with a disability; or
  4. the dog has difficulties with the stress of the kennel or public work.

When is a dog ready to leave the Puppy Raiser Home and move into formal training?

This transition usually happens when the dog is between 16-24 months of age. Because dogs mature at different rates, this transition is tailored to what's best for the dog and his intended person.

May I PET a Service Dog?

NO! Not while the dog is working. Petting can be distracting. Service Dogs need to be able to focus on their "work", the instructions being given, and the needs of their human partner.

May I FEED a Service Dog?

NO, thank you! These dogs are well fed by their human partners, and should never be distracted by offers of food. It is a good practice to never offer food or treats to anyone's dog other than your own.

May I talk to a Service Dog Team?

Yes, to the HUMAN partner, if they are not busy. Most people enjoy talking to people about their Service Dog. However, do not call to or distract the dog by making whistles or sounds. That could endanger the working team.

May I ask the person "What's wrong with you?"

NO! Federal law protects the privacy of individuals with disabilities. They are not required to explain their disability, nor are they required to explain or demonstrate why they are accompanied by a Service Dog. Besides, this is not polite behavior.

I own a business. What are the rules for dogs going into public places?

If a person enters your place of business with a dog, and dogs are normally not allowed, you can ask the person politely if it is a service dog. By law, the dog does not need special identification or a harness identifying it as a service dog. If the person says yes, it is a service dog, you can ask the person what the dog does to mitigate their disability. You cannot ask what the disability is, but you can ask for specific tasks that the dog does to mitigate that disability.

Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must directly relate to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Is a therapy dog covered under the same access laws as a service dog? No, a therapy dog works with other people, such as visiting a nursing home. A service dog is specially trained to mitigate their handler’s disability.

Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring a service dog into my business? No, even if you routinely charge for pets.

If I operate a private taxicab, can I refuse to pick up someone with a service dog? No, you will be violating the ADA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

What is the service dog barks or growls at other people or acts out of control? You may exclude a service dog from your business or facility if the dog’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. You must not assume that the breed or look of the animal is dangerous. This must be based on the actual dog’s behavior.

Can I exclude a service dog that does not really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business? In a few situations, you may. A dog barking during a movie or concert would be a good example.

Are people who train service dogs protected by anti-discrimination laws? People without disabilities are usually used to train service animals before they are placed with a person with a disability. This process often involves socializing the animal by going to public places. The ADA does not require governments or public accommodations to allow persons who do not have disabilities to take these service animals in training into their buildings or facilities. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, however, expressly protects the rights of handlers or trainers of service animals to take the animals into government buildings and public accommodations.

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