Individually designed programs best meet the needs of a person with autism. Those with autism should be learning, living and working in settings where there is ample opportunity to communicate and interact with others who have the skills they lack.
(this information was shared with us by one of our Autism Services’ members and includes a glimpse into their journey so far)
Service dog “certification” programs are not part of the Sask Legislation therefore if a Sask. resident has a need to obtain a service dog/animal, there is no way to ensure/monitor if the dog is actually a “certified” (trained appropriately and successfully passed the service dog exam criteria). As a basic human right, if a person has obtained a medical recommendation for a service animal then he has the right to use any animal in public. Generally speaking, the animal should be trained and not pose a threat to the public or cause damage to the facilities it is in.
Alberta and BC have legislation about service dogs and owners of service dogs have to comply with the legislation regarding official training and certification. Manitoba has no legislation either, however there are groups who are working towards having service animal protocols legislated and are following the legislation in Alberta and BC as examples.
Ways to Obtain a Service Dog
People can either 1. purchase a trained and certified service dog or 2. train their own animal with assistance of a training service/business (handler trained service animal)
Purchasing a trained dog can cost anywhere between $20 000 to $35 000 depending on the breed, business and reputability of the organization who trained it.
Handler trained dogs will cost around $7500 – $10 000 which covers just the training course fees of a dog trainer. On top of that cost is the regular expenses of feeding your dog, traveling with your dog for training sessions, health/medical costs and any additional accessories needed (vests, leashes, etc) plus your time to train the dog which is priceless .
At the moment (February 2020), Pawsitive Independence in Martensville is not training dogs and does not have dogs available.
We have connected with Jason Arsenal of ArsenalK9 Training in Prince Albert. He runs a “handler trained” service dog program and is willing to work with us to train our 9 month old pup. He works closely with an organization in Manitoba who is advocating for legislation of service animals in Manitoba and who trains service animals specific for autism.
Web links for both are:
What You Need to Get Started
A medical note is required in order to utilize a service animal. Once you receive medical authorization, the journey begins based on your capacity to either handler train or purchase a trained animal.
Our Journey (so far)
- We initially adopted a rescue puppy this summer in order to be an emotional support for L.
- His doctor prescribed a service animal two weeks ago
- We met with Jason on Feb 16 to learn about service animal training and to assess our pup Z
- Z has her “learners license” as a service dog in training. Dogs have to be two years old or older to be fully certifiable but can start training and being in public as soon as the doctor’s note is obtained.
- We are beginning the process of “handler training” Z and our “service animal” vest is on order so L can take her in public.
- Jason is waiting for a few more people to register for service dog training so he can hold a small group class. When this starts, we will be travelling to PA once a week for a 2 hour session with him, then we will have to reinforce/practice the skills learned prior to returning the next week.
- After the training course, Z has to pass the certifying exam, so, once all that time and work is invested, there is no guarantee she will pass but we are optimistic.
- I am considering doing fundraising to assist with the costs of this endeavour as I am not confident a lot of grants/assistance exist for service animal financial aid
- Jason said I can share his contact information with Autism Services with the hope to provide more access to service dog training