Applying for a Little Angels Service Dog is a multi-step process which takes an average of two months to complete. We highly suggest watching the above video in its entirety for a descriptive explanation of our process.
Please read the entirety of this page before submitting your application. Applications are easily submitted through this website.
Little Angels is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that trains and places assistance dogs with disabled children and adults throughout the United States.
The following details the process of applying for a service dog, the waiting time and the handler training process. Please see below for a list of frequently asked questions.
- The first step is to submit your application online. Once we have reviewed your application, and we believe a dog could be a good fit for you, we will reach out to request additional documentation from your medical provider, and a personal referral. Once we have all documents back in our office, and reviewed, we will ask for a simple home video from you. We promise the video will be easy and well worth it. But first things first – the online application submission form, which is on the following page.
- If your application and documentation lead us to believe that one of our dogs can assist you we will schedule a phone interview and consultation. The interview and consultation allows us to ask any further questions to ensure a good fit with our program and will allow us to confirm that you have realistic expectations of how a service dog can assist you. This gives us the opportunity to explain what an average day with a service dog will be like by going over the details of a regular day for you and the different tasks the service dog would need to be trained in to assist you.
- If you, your medical provider, and Little Angels still agree that a service dog is in your best interest, we would then write out a customized contract going over all the details for you to review. This is when we would ask you to take your time and discuss all of your options with friends and family. We want to make sure this is the right decision for you. You can take days, or even months to weigh your options. A service dog can bring life-changing assistance to someone with a disability – but it is a decision that will affect you for the life of the dog.
- If you decide to move forward, we would have you return the contract with a minimum deposit of $500. A Little Angels Service Dog costs our organization an average of $38,000 to train and place. We ask our recipients to be responsible for 1/4 of our cost which is $9,500. We know that many cannot afford to write a check for $9,500 and so we will remain available to assist you through the process of fundraising if you would prefer. We do not want anyone to have to pay to receive a service dog. Your portion shows us your commitment to the program and to the dog. We are happy to raise the additional funds for anyone who can’t raise the entire $38,000 but for anyone who can raise the entire amount, wait times are significantly reduced. Wait times vary based on fundraising and the training each dog needs to receive to help their disabled recipient.
- Once the dog is done with its training we work together with you every day for two weeks at one of our two facilities, either in San Diego, California, or Bartlett, New Hampshire. These lessons are done on a private basis, and are designed to be low-stress, fun and practical. This is for team training – for you and your dog to learn how to work together as a team both in public and at home. This is also when you are certified by us as a working team, and certified for public access so you can bring the dog with you into public settings.
- Continued contact is required with training reports and training assessments throughout the rest of the dog’s life. We have a lifetime commitment to the dog and its support of you.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What age does the recipient have to be in order to receive a dog?
A: Little Angels places dogs to assist children and adults. Disabled recipients who are not able to be consistent in reinforcing the dog’s training will require a handler (facilitator) to care for the dog and issue commands to the dog for the assistance of the disabled party. Because of this, there is not necessarily an age requirement for the disabled party. Dogs can even alert to seizures in an infant as long as the parent is consistent with training reinforcement.
Q: Can the dog attend school with my child?
A: There are certain situations where service dogs can attend school with a child. If the child cannot safely control the dog on their own, there is no legal advocacy for the dog to attend. However, some schools will voluntarily allow the dog to attend school when a staff member volunteers to handle the dog between classes.
Q: What can the dog do?
A: While our dogs are highly trained, they are not robots. Our recipients and handlers receive very detailed instruction on how to properly reinforce the training their dog has received. Our dogs respond to commands, but they are not responsible. They cannot be relied on to protect or guide individuals away from harm. They care for their recipients, but they are not caregivers. It is the handler’s responsibility to care for the dog, and in return the dog will perform tasks to assist the recipient. Our dogs are trained for each individual’s needs. We train dogs to assist with seizures, autism, hearing, diabetes, PTSD for veterans and civilians, extreme anxiety disorders, and mobility for those with or without a wheelchair. Some of these tasks include retrieving items, opening/closing doors, turning on/off lights, dialing assistance dog phones, retrieving phones, bracing for balance while walking/transferring/getting up off the floor, providing non-protective boundary control, going around corners in advance of the recipient, alerting to specific sounds, tether and search training for autism assistance, and providing deep pressure therapy. We also actively train our dogs to recognize and alert to seizures, drops and rises in blood sugar, panic/anxiety attacks, and nightmares and flashbacks. We successfully use scent training which allows our dogs to recognize seizures in advance for many individuals with epilepsy. This depends on the type, frequency, and activity of the seizures which will be discussed in the phone consultation.
We do not train dogs to work for or guide the blind, or to alert to food allergies.
Q: Is there a cost that recipients need to pay for the dog?
A: There is a $25 application fee to ensure the commitment level of each applicant. After the application process is complete and the recipient has been approved to receive a dog, the recipient will be responsible for 1/4 of the total expenses of the dog, which is $9,500. We believe the majority of our recipients cannot simply write a check for this amount, so we will remain available to guide you through the process of fundraising if you ask for our aid. We will require at least $500 of this amount as a non-refundable deposit which you will return with your contract, to join our fundraising waiting list. This deposit shows us that the recipient is committed to the waiting process and our program. Once a recipient joins our waiting list, fundraising begins.
Q: What is the process of fundraising?
A: Our goal is to get the dog to you at no cost, other than the initial $500 deposit and application fee. The way this is done is through fundraising and donations. We have a team of over eighty volunteers who help to lower costs associated with the training of each dog, but there are still many expenses that cannot be avoided. Before a dog is placed with a disabled recipient, we are faced with many expenses, all of which come out to an average of $38,000 per dog. We do not expect that most recipients can write a check for this amount. Usually these expenses are paid for through fundraising. All donations become tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law due to our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization under the IRS. Most gifts received will only cover a small percentage of the total amount needed per dog. Because of this we cannot guarantee the amount of time it will take in order to raise funds for each dog. However, if the disabled recipient is able to volunteer as a fundraiser for Little Angels, the process usually takes an average of six months per dog. Our fundraising coordinators are available to directly assist our recipients to raise funds themselves if they are able to be involved in the process – but fundraising is never a requirement for our recipients. We do see that the individuals who are able to fundraise will help us reach the financial goals sooner, so following through with your own fundraising is recommended, but not a requirement. Please note that most applicants choose Little Angels over other organizations because of the opportunity for them to be involved with fundraising, thus shortening their wait time.
In short – our recipients are responsible for the first $9,500 which can be paid personally or through fundraising. Little Angels will raise the additional $28,500, or you can assist us with fundraising for this amount to speed up the process.
Q: How does Little Angels determine the fundraising goal for each dog?
A: We certainly understand the sticker shock when it comes to the high expense of providing service dogs. It’s a lot of money! Organizations generally take the overall expenses of the program, and divide that by how many dogs they plan on placing in a year, to come up with the amount needed to keep the organization functioning that year. Many can’t see how so much money could possibly pour into one individual dog, but for any pet owners who have ever boarded their pet, for even a week, know that the cost is often similar to the expense of their own vacation. This is because there are so many staff members needed to care for the dog and provide enough enrichment for them to do well in a kennel environment. (Quick Math = if you boarded your pet for 1.5 years, at an average boarding fee of $50 a day, it comes to $27,375! And this is just basic boarding without veterinary or supplies. It also does not include the additional expenses to transform a dog into a service dog.) Some of our dogs are boarded at our kennel, while others are in foster homes or our prison programs. During the course of a dog’s training this often changes because it is healthy and productive for them to be in both environments, off and on. The dogs who are in foster homes or prison programs are cared for by volunteers, but still have many staff hours put into managing the fostering experience, with regular instruction and follow-ups with the volunteers. For the dogs fostered by dedicated inmates in our prison programs, we have staff who have weeks of travel expenses, due to the need to travel to the prisons for weeks at a time to instruct and oversee training and progress, as well as manage it administratively between trips. The travel expenses to the prisons often include airfare, or mileage and hotel expenses due to our long distance relationships. Expenses for each dog will certainly include the initial adoption or whelping costs. If a litter is born from our own breeding program we have the yearly expenses of both parents of that litter, in addition to fees paid to the canine cryobank, veterinary, and supplies of whelping which is around $3,000 per litter, with an average litter size of 6 puppies (remember it also costs thousands to care for the parents throughout that year). If we are lucky enough to adopt a dog from a shelter we will have an adoption fee of $69. But if we purchase a puppy or dog from a breeder we pay between $2,000 – $5,000 per pup (we aren’t purchasing run of the mill dogs for this program because they need to have proven lines of health tested dogs for generations). Other direct expenses per dog will include boarding that dog for 1-2 years, an average of 600 one-on-one hours to train a dog, an additional average of 300 one-on-one hours for grooming and driving that individual dog to field trips, travel expenses of field trips, supply runs, and veterinary visits. Then we have direct supplies (such as leashes, vests, collars, tags, microchips, booties, crates, toys, harnesses), veterinary procedures, health clearances, medications, and the food that goes into each individual dog, in addition to the trainer’s time during handler training when the recipient learns to work with their dog. Then there is all of the administrative staffing required for the behind the scenes work (excluding application reviews which end up paying for themselves, hence the $25 application fee). Our administrative team collaboratively returns voice mails, conducts phone consultations, oversees human resources, manages social media and our website, supports the recipients on our waiting lists, coordinates fundraising, and together will answer close to 300 emails every day! This alone requires 5 full time staff (who work with people, rather than the dogs themselves). The administrative costs also do not end when the dog is finished with training, but continues for the lifetime of the dog. Training costs also continue because we offer free refresher training, at anytime, to any recipient, as well as availability to reach a trainer 7 days a week, for the life of the dog. There are also the expenses related to the facilities themselves; the lease payments, utilities, and kennel upkeep such as fencing repairs and landscaping. Insurance is also very expensive both for workers compensation of employees working in a high risk related industry, commercial auto, and for the high liability we are exposed to in having so many dogs out in public settings throughout the United States. While these expenses are quite enough on their own, we also have the exact same expenses for dogs who never make it as service dogs, which are also included into the grand total. The fact that we do have so many amazing volunteers is what lowers our expenses to the total of $38,000 per dog that we place. While every nonprofit has financial statements available on the internet, I often encourage the public to do an internet search to question how much it costs for the largest service dog organizations in the world to place each dog. We won’t mention any names here, but think of the largest, most widely recognized organizations, type in the exact name of that organization, and go from there. This is a good comparison because they are also openly transparent online that it costs them anywhere from $50,000 – $70,000 per dog that they place. Anyone can find this easily on the internet. Even though $50,000 is a much higher expense than we are faced with, they are still within an average range for service dog organizations that are reputable and have high standards. While they also have many dedicated volunteers, they are also much larger organizations, which will have greater expenses.
We are hopeful this paints a small picture of why this industry is faced with such high fundraising goals across the world. There is quite a bit that goes into each working team.
Q: How long is the waiting list?
A: Once fundraising is completed recipients are currently waiting an average of 1 year to receive their dogs, but keep in mind this is average, and could take even close to 2 years in some cases. Fundraising wait times depend greatly on the involvement of each individual, and whether or not they are involved in fundraising.
Q: What about travel and expenses?
A: The costs for travel expenses are separate from the amount raised for the service dog itself. Recipients who do not live close to one of our facilities will need to travel and stay near us for the two weeks of handler training. Travel expenses vary and are the responsibility of the recipient.
Q: What will the dog be like?
A: Little Angels has a breeding program consisting of English Labrador Retrievers and English Cream Golden Retrievers. We also rescue suitable dogs whenever possible, or purchase quality puppies from outside of our own breeding program such as Poodles, doodles, Bichon Frises and Coton de Tulears. Rescued dogs are often Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Shepherds, Poodles or mixes of any of these breeds. All dogs are fully medically screened for good hip and elbow joints, spine, good vision, heart and other medical concerns associated with that specific breed. Most service tasks require a larger breed dog weighing an average of 60 pounds, but some assistance tasks would allow a 10 pound dog to be suitable. If there are any dog allergies within the recipient’s home we will place a hypoallergenic dog such as a Poodle, doodle, Bichon Frise or Coton de Tulear. Poodles and doodles come in all sizes, some of which are even larger than Labradors. Our Bichons and Cotons are closer to 10 pounds. All of our dogs have their own individual personalities. Some are laid back, while others are playful. All of our dogs understand the difference between work and play. When they are not working they relax and play just like other dogs. We place each dog to match the personality of the recipient.
Q: What if I have other animals?
A: We will place our service dogs in homes with other pets on a case-by-case basis. We consider the species, personalities and traits of each individual animal for the safety of all involved. Our dogs are regularly trained around other dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and sometimes even horses.
Q: What are the requirements for receiving a dog?
A: Applications are reviewed on an individual basis by qualified staff to determine the recipient will not be hindered by the dog, the dog will be properly cared for, and the dog will be able to assist the recipient appropriately. All applicants are considered regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, or creed.
Q: How is my information protected?
A: Any sensitive information provided will be kept confidential and only shared with Little Angels staff who require the information to review your application and/or train and place a service dog. Information will not be disclosed without express permission of the applicant and/or recipient.
Q: I am under 18-years-of-age. Can I submit an application?
A: While we do place assistance dogs with minors, we will need a legal guardian to submit an application on behalf of the minor. We cannot accept an application if it is submited by anyone under 18.