4 Organizations That Rescue Shelter Dogs to be Service Animals

These nonprofits are working to show that shelter dogs are loyal companions and can serve as therapy dogs for people in need.

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Dogs and people form special bonds. Besides being loyal loving companions, dogs can provide emotional support and help people cope with fears, loneliness, post-traumatic stress (PST), and some mental illnesses like depression. The empathy that dogs feel for their charges is the reason why dogs are the most used therapy animal.

Service dogs help people with disabilities navigate the world they live in by assisting people with limited mobility, helping a child with autism attend school or alerting a hearing-impaired person to a doorbell, crying baby, and so much more. Of course, the most well-known service dogs are those who guide vision-impaired people.

While many service and therapy dogs are trained as puppies, many nonprofit organizations have started using shelter dogs in their programs. While there are many misconceptions and myths about shelter animals, most end up there because their families are unable or unwilling to care for them and not because of behavior issues. Still, many people see them as damaged or subpar. But that is far from the truth.

Most of the animals who end up in a shelter are as loving, smart, and loyal as any other dog. Shelter rescues are capable of being trained to become therapy or service dogs for people in need. They just have to be given a chance.

Pets for Vets

This organization recognizes that many veterans return home with scars, both seen and unseen, that makes it difficult to transition back to civilian life. Many suffer from PTSD and severe anxiety. Pets for Vets was founded to rescue and train shelter animals to provide therapy dogs for veterans.The organization says that when a vet is matched with the right dog, both of their lives change for the better, "Together, they share a Super Bond that provides them both with a whole new 'leash' on life."

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Can do Canines

A dog from a local shelter helped launch Can do Canines shelter dog program in 1989. She was a Lhasa Apso mix named Annie and she assisted her person for eight years. Annie was the first of over 500 rescued dogs specially trained as service dogs to assist people with hearing, mobility, seizures, diabetes, and autism.

At their second chance kennels, the rescued ups are evaluated, given any necessary treatment and then placed into therapy dog training. If a dog is not suited due to behavior, temperament or illness, the pup is placed into a forever home with a family.


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Paws with a Cause

This service dog organization has been around since 1979 and enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities through custom trained assistance dogs. Paws with a Cause specializes in helping people with disabilities complete essential tasks and the pups can open doors, pull a wheelchair, alert a hearing-impaired person, and to get help when their charge is seizing. There are over 40 tasks that assistance dogs can be trained to do. Many but not all of these amazing dogs come from shelters, some are donated by breeders.

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Service Dog Express

This organization's motto is "A dog’s life saved, a human’s life enriched” and believes that the connection between the service dog and his or her person is life transforming. Service Dog Express specializes in the training of service dogs for wounded service people and civilians, many of whom are suffering from PTSD. The organization also trains dogs for a myriad of other disabilities including epilepsy detention, hearing loss, Alzheimer's Disease, mobility issues, and pain issues.

People in need of a service dog are encouraged to go to a local shelter or rescue organization  to choose a dog who has been assessed for temperament and trainability by one of the organizations trainers. This reduces the cost of services and saves a dog who may otherwise have been out to sleep.

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