|February 2, 2011 | Statement Regarding Return of Dog|
Canine Companions for Independence response to story regarding return of dog:
It's extremely rare for Canine Companions to ask for a dog to be returned from a team. We've had many conversations and visits with a graduate to help resolve numerous safety issues over the past year. We finally had to intervene to ensure the dog's health and safety. We've invited the graduate talk with us further.
In our 36 years of work we've placed over 3600 dogs with people with disabilities; we've only had to ask for the return of a dog in a handful of cases. This was a very difficult decision made after many conversations and options were offered to the graduate by both our regional and national staff and disregarded.
It is our last resort when the safety of the graduate or dog is at risk or the team is not able to work together. We intervened to ensure the dog's health and safety when it became apparent that the graduate was not complying with any of our suggestions to ensure the dog's safety.
We work with our graduates on how to locate safe locations to exercise the dog and provide free time to play. We care deeply about our graduates and the dogs and strive to maintain their health and safety.
Unfortunately, over the past 36 years we've experienced the loss of 53 of our dogs due to traffic accidents and being off leash. In fact, the restrictions Canine Companions places on where dogs may be off leash came about because of those fatalities and, since we implemented these restrictions over 10 years ago, the number of dogs we've lost to car accidents has decreased dramatically.
Canine Companions strives to place and maintain safe, effective assistance dog teams. We don't simply give dogs to individuals. We provide extensive training to each dog before matching the dog with a participant. Then, the dog and the participant go through a two-week Team Training program so the team can learn to work together and so Canine Companions can make sure the two create a strong and safe team. After the participant completes Team Training, the participant is a considered a graduate, and we give custody, but not ownership, of the dog to the graduate. Custody of one of our dogs requires a commitment on the part of the graduate. We also undertake a commitment to work with the graduate for the life of our dog to ensure the dog's well being, and the ongoing effectiveness and safety of the team. We are currently working closely with 1600 active graduate teams.
Canine Companions for Independence has five training centers across the country, and are currently training 64 people with disabilities in our Team Training program to provide them with an assistance dog, all provided free of charge.