What We DoPups & People
Big Paws Canine Foundation is a multi-faceted organization whose primary mission is to provide Service and Companion Dogs to disabled Veterans and former First Responders injured in the line of duty. Every day, a minimum of 23 Veterans commit suicide in the United States. We know from experience that Service Dogs can decrease that number. Our program was developed to help that number be reduced further, in any way that we are able.
The first part of our program involves assessing the needs of a particular individual who has completed a thorough application and interview process and then assessing and acquiring a pup that suits the needs of the individual. The dogs are acquired from a variety of sources, such as local shelters and unwanted litters, although we prefer reputable breeders as we know the blood-line of the dog and can predict longevity and health issues. The pup is then placed in a foster home where it begins training as early as 8 weeks of age, with “potty” training and kennel training being paramount at this stage. Basic obedience is then begun and the prospective recipient is then introduced into the training process with the dog. This helps to formulate the bond, which is essential to successful Service Dog Teams. This also gives the recipient the opportunity to learn the commands and learning style of the dog and take a great deal of pride in knowing that they have tailored the training to suit their own needs, with guidance from one of the trainers in our organization. As the training advances, the dog and recipient begin a slow integration process into the recipient’s home until both dog and recipient are working effectively as a team.
We have expanded this program to be able to include Veterans or former First Responders who already have a dog. We offer assessments of the dogs and if they demonstrate the qualities to be either a Service or Companion Dog, we offer training for the dog and handler at an incredibly nominal membership fee ($12 per year).
As the obedience training is introduced and worked on, we also begin introductory task training. Once obedience training is completed, we then begin preparing the dogs and handlers to work together in public, as public access with a Service Dog as addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows access to the dogs and handlers to most any public place.
The definition of a Service Dog is a dog that is trained to do work or perform a task to assist a person with a disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Primarily, we train these dogs to assist with – but not exclusive to: Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, COPD and other breathing disorders as well as mobility.
To further assist our Veterans and former First Responders we have several public events in which participation on some level is mandatory to help the following: 1. training their dog for public access, 2. to cut down on the isolation that many who cope with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury find easy to slip into, 3. to help them help others by joining our fundraising efforts to continue the operation of our facility and the ability to provide dogs to other Veterans or former First Responders.
We also offer education “seminars” to local groups, churches, organizations and businesses to teach about Big Paws Canine Foundation, but more importantly, Service Dogs in general. A number of Service Dog stories have been in the media recently, and we are devoted to teaching the public about how these animals help with both visible and invisible disabilities. We educate about Service Dogs in reference to the ADA as well as offering helpful information regarding “Service Dog Etiquette” as the numbers of these Service Dog Teams grow. We also offer insight into not only the rights and responsibilities of Service Dog Teams, but also the rights and protections in place for the businesses that welcome the Teams onto their premises.
The Veterans Administration does not provide Service Dog funding to any Veterans for Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injuries. Members in our program have lifetime support and training for such a minimal fee of $12.00 a year. As of 2016, we have over 150 Service Dogs in action with their Veterans or First Responders across the country. With headquarters in the Myrtle Beach SC area, we have facilities in Sioux Falls SD and in Southern California (easily accessible from Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties).