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Apply for an assistance dog

Thank you for your interest in applying for a Smart Pups Assistance Dog to help your child with special needs. The process can be an emotional undertaking and can also be a little unnerving, as you will need to provide personal and sensitive details about the unique circumstances of your child and family. Please be assured we only ask for information we need to properly assess your eligibility for a Smart Pup Assistance Dog and objectively determine how, and if, a Smart Pup could help.

Before applying for a Smart Pup Assistance Dog, please be aware that we do not charge for our dogs but request you to either donate or fundraise a minimum goal to help with the costs of training your assistance dog.

Smart Pups request a minimum donation from the applicant/client in the amount of $25,000 towards the Smart Pups Training Program as each certified Smart Pup Assistance Dog costs up to $50,000 to raise and train.

Smart Pups requires written confirmation from your doctor detailing your child’s diagnosis. We also ask for a professional opinion as to how an assistance dog would assist your child on a daily basis and the likely immediate and long-term benefits for the child and the family as a whole. Your Smart Pup will be individually trained to master skills to help enhance quality of life and improve the level of independence for your special needs child. Your Smart Pup will also be certified for Full Public Access with your agreement to be the ‘Handler’ of a Three-Unit-Team, which includes the Smart Pup, the Child and a Handler.

As the Handler, you [or a person/s nominated in your household] must be prepared to dedicate time each day to work with the dog to maintain its health and wellbeing as well as acknowledge the financial commitment.

Smart Pups want the best for both our Assistance Dogs and the Clients we approve. There is quite a lot of information to complete, which will then be reviewed our the Smart Pups Selection Committee.

If your application is successful, your application has demonstrated to the Smart Pups that you:

  • are able to provide your Smart Pup with a safe, secure and loving home with a healthy balance of work and play time.
  • are committed to reliably maintaining the quality of training throughout your Smart Pup’s working life.
  • agree to look after the long-term health and wellbeing of your Smart Pup.
  • are physically and financially able to provide your Smart Pup, including but not limited to regular exercise and healthy food and attend to veterinarian needs in a timely manner.

Considerations before applying

Before applying for a Smart Pup Assistance Dog, please be aware that we do not charge for our dogs but request you to either donate or fundraise to help with the costs of training your assistance dog.

This is a minimum donation goal of $25,000 per approved client, with each certified Smart Pup Assistance Dog costing the charity organisation up to $50,000 to raise and train. There are many fundraising options to explore to reach your goal, within the required time frame of 2 years.

We have a number of reasons for this:

  • To allow us to train and continuing placing Assistance Dogs, we need help with the costs.
  • We find that there are numerous opportunities for you to fundraise in your local area, compared with us saturating our local community. Local fundraising will also help your local community to understand and be aware of your Smart Pup when he/she arrives.
  • There are a number of organisations that will help individual children but not us as an organisation.
  • By ensuring you reach your goal within 24 months, we are able to accept new applications and continue bringing puppies into the training program.

Your family will have to make some changes to accommodate your new Smart Pup. Living with a Smart Pup can be a life changing experience with many advantages, however, as with any partnership it doesn’t happen overnight. To reap the rewards there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome. An Assistance Dog is not the answer for everyone or everything, so it’s important to be realistic. As you consider the amazing advantages of having a Smart Pup to assist your child, you must also consider all aspects of owing and caring for a working Assistance Dog.

The team at Smart Pups suggests you ask yourself, and all other responsible adults in your family, the following questions before you complete the application form:

  • Do we appreciate that a Smart Pup is a working service dog and not a pet?
  • Are we ready to incorporate an Assistance Dog into our family life?
  • Do we have the time and energy to work with a Smart Pup?
  • Are we willing to exercise and care for a Smart Pup?
  • Are our expectations of what a Smart Pup can and can’t do realistic?
  • Can we plan and think ahead in order to avoid problems?
  • Are we prepared to take on the role of ‘leader’ with all the responsibilities that this entails?
  • How will having a Smart Pup affect our family and friends?
  • How will the other people in our lives feel about having a dog around constantly?
  • Do we understand that a Smart Pup can’t be left outside for long periods as it is trained and requires companionship? Will someone be home when the child is at school or away?
  • Is our current home suitable and safe for a Smart Pup?
  • Will a Smart Pup have enough room to exercise and toilet safely?
  • Are we prepared to exercise a Smart Pup in wet weather?
  • Who is going to pick up after a Smart Pup, both at home and out on walks?
  • How will we deal with incidents?
  • Who will be responsible for bathing and grooming a Smart Pup?
  • Are there others who can be relied upon to help with a Smart Pup if needed?
  • Can you financially afford the continued ongoing cost of an Assistance Dog?

It’s vital that the whole family is in agreement and is fully aware of the responsibilities of owning a Smart Pup. If you have any questions, please email us at here.

Application criteria

  1. The applicant must be the legal guardian of the recipient child and have full support of all members of the household.
  2. The recipient child must be under 18 years of age.
  3. The applicant must be over 18 years old, be able bodied, able to handle a dog, agree to be responsible for the dog at home and when in public, and commit to supervise the recipient child and Smart Pup at all times.
  4. The applicant must have the ability to follow specific guidelines and commands in the training, care and management of the Smart Pup.

NB: An applicant may be declined at any stage of the application process if the criteria are not met.

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