SERVICE DOGS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS!

Who is Smoky Mountain Service Dogs?

Smoky Mountain Service Dogs is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to: "Enhance the Physical and Psychological Quality of Life for Veterans with Disabilities by Providing Custom Trained Mobility Assistance Service Dogs"

What Type of Service Dogs are Trained by SMSD?

SMSD custom trains dogs for mobility assistance for Veterans with disabilities. We do not train dogs for the following:

  • Guide the blind.
  • Detect seizures.
  • Detect diabetic crisis.
  • Detect medical symptoms.
  • Provide supervision, navigation, or safety from environmental hazards.
  • Respond aggressively or provide personal protection.

What is the service area of Smoky Mountain Service Dogs?

It is imperative that our trainers be able to work extensively with the client/dog team throughout the training process. In addition, prior to service dog graduation, it will be necessary for the recipient to travel to the Knoxville area for a 7-10 day period for specialized training with the selected dog. Therefore, it will be the policy of SMSD to serve an area within six hours of Knoxville. SMSD Board of Directors reserves the right to override this policy where appropriate.

What is the law regarding service dogs access to public places?

Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Tennessee law, all businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. Additional charges for admitting the service dog to an establishment or fares for transportation cannot be required. Only religious facilities and residential facilities may refuse service dog entry.

In order to meet ADI standards a service dog must:

Be trained to perform at least three tasks to mitigate the client's disability. The client must also be provided with enough training to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. The client must be able to demonstrate:

  • That their dog can perform at least three tasks.
  • Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
  • An understanding of canine care and health.
  • The ability to maintain training, problem solve, and continue to train/add new skills (as required) with their service dog.
  • Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.

What type of dogs does Smoky Mountain Service Dogs Use?

The majority of our dogs will be Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers and will come from reputable breeders. SMSD will, when appropriate, use rescue/shelter dogs. All dogs are selected by our Trainer/Consultants and must also be approved by our Veterinarian.

What is the value of a certified service dog?

Industry cost to select, raise, train, and certify a service dog is estimated to be $20,000 to $25,000. Producing a Smoky Mountain Service Dog requires approximately 1500 to 1800 hours of training, supervised by our Trainers/Consultants. Volunteer puppy raisers, puppy socializers, and intermediate foster families also spend countless hours teaching our dogs basic obedience and proper canine etiquette.

What is the cost of a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?

With the exception of certain associated fees, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs will provide our qualified dogs to approved disabled Veterans for no charge. Should the Veteran and his support team want to raise funds through a fundraiser or make personal donations, it will be greatly appreciated but no approved disabled Veteran will be refused a dog due to lack of funds.

Should We Desire to Acquire a Smoky Mountain Service Dog, What is Your Pricing Policy and What is the Acquisition Process?

Total cost to acquire, care for, train, and place a service dog is estimated to be in the $20,000 to $23,000 range. This estimate includes the nearly 1500 to 1800 hours of training required for our trainers to supervise and personally train our dogs and the recipient.

It is the policy of SMSD to place our mobility assistance service dogs with approved disabled Veterans at no cost.

Acquisition of a Smoky Mountain Service Dog is a five-step process.

Step One - fill out the Preliminary Application Form on the web site and submit. You will be contacted for a telephone interview within one week.

Step Two - if the Preliminary Application Form is approved by SMSD, you will receive a more detailed Full Application within two weeks. The completed Full Application must be returned to SMSD along with a non-refundable $50 deposit.

Step Three - The Client Application Team will thoroughly review the Full Application and conduct a home visit to determine if a SMSD dog is appropriate. Due to difficulties in gaining access to medical personnel and obtain necessary information for approval and scheduling the home visit, this may take up to ten weeks. Smoky Mountain Service Dogs will notify clients within one week if their Preliminary Application or Full Application is declined.

Step Four - Dog/Client Match and custom training (this process may take up to one year depending on the age, training level and availability of dogs within the SMSD program).

Step Five - Dog/Client Partner Training - the date of the training camp is determined by the Canine Program Manager and depending on the progress the dog being trained. Training camp is a two week camp. At the conclusion of the camp, a graduation ceremony is scheduled on the last day and the Transfer of Ownership of the matched dog is passed to the recipient.

What are the estimated costs associated with owning a service dog?

Initial costs: $100-$500 (food/water bowls, grooming supplies, dog bed, toys). Yearly expenses: $600-$1,600 (vaccines, food, heartworm/flea preventative, grooming, treats, leashes, etc.).

Who trains Smoky Mountain Service Dogs?

Dog selection and training are the responsibility of Heather and Darrell Wilkerson. Although all Smoky Mountain Service Dogs are housed in foster homes, the training supervision is out of Savannah Springs Kennels in Lenoir City, TN., approximately 45 minutes south of Knoxville. For more information on our Trainers/Consultants please see our About Us section.

How is Smoky Mountain Service Dogs Funded?

SMSD is an all-volunteer organization (with the exception of our trainers) and is funded by private contributions from individuals, groups, and corporations. We also seek grants from corporations and foundations. We also conduct several fund raising events annually.

Can you train my pet dog to be a service dog?

We do not train dogs outside of the SMSD program.

How old are your dogs when matched with their partner?

Our dogs will be placed at approximately two years of age. This may change somewhat depending on the amount of specialized training necessary for the dog/partner team.

Who can apply for a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?

Any Disabled American Veteran with an Honorable Discharge who suffered limb loss and/or traumatic brain injury and meets our qualifications for a mobility assistance dog. All applicants must be approved by our Client Application Team. All applicants must be able to demonstrate that a service dog will enhance their quality of life and independence.

I am a Disabled Veteran, why should I work with my Veterans Affairs specialist as I apply?

You may qualify for benefits related to service dog training and care that are available only to Veterans enrolled through the Department of Veterans Affairs. By applying through your rehabilitation specialist, you ensure that you will receive all applicable benefits.

How do I apply for a Smoky Mountain Service Dog?

Please go to the Application Process section of our website and click on START HERE.

How long will I have to wait for a service dog?

It is our goal to match the right dog with the specific needs of each recipient. For that reason, our Client Consultation Team reviews each recipient application and your wait time will depend on us having a dog that can best suit your specific needs. Another determining factor will be the amount of specialized training required to meet your needs.

When my service dog is ready for retirement, how long would I have to wait for a replacement?

Applicants seeking a successor service dog are given priority in screening and placement.