Our Shelter to Service program is rescuing, raising, and training pit bull dogs as service dogs (Sidekicks) for our veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 20 military lives are lost to suicide from PTSD daily. Thousands of pit bulls are euthanized weekly. Utilizing a discarded population to help an underserved population. Welcome to Operation Sidekick – we got your six.
Evoking Hope – On Stage
In 2016 we set out on a mission to spread awareness about the mental health crisis plaguing our veterans and to raise awareness about how a population of discarded shelter animals could have a significant, positive impact on those veterans. Watch one of our first presentations on stage at SEED20 to learn more about where we started and how this community crisis requires a community solution. Special thanks to Social Venture Partners.
Pairing Sidekicks and Veterans
Criteria for our Sidekicks:
Our service dogs in training are specifically selected and cultivated for their significant jobs based on personality traits, temperament, and natural drive. We look for friendly, confident dogs that show no signs of aggression and are eager learners.
We select our service dog candidates through our local shelter and rescue partners and only accept pit bull-type dogs into the program.
We do not train already-owned dogs for service dog work
We do not accept donated dogs from private owners or rescued dogs from private citizens.
Criteria for our Veteran Candidates:
Our service dogs are paired with veterans based on the dog’s skills and abilities which best fit with the needs of the veteran. We do not pair dogs on a first-come, first-served basis due to the need to pair the right dog with the right person.
Veteran applicants must have a referral from a licensed healthcare provider which recommends a service dog and service dog-specific tasks that the provider believes would be beneficial to the treatment plan for the veteran.
Veterans must fill out an application and supply a copy of their DD214 with personal references
Veteran candidates must be willing to take on the full responsibility of the dog financially after placement, provide daily enrichment, continue training with their dog, and continue basic veterinary care and grooming responsibilities.
what we train
We specifically train tasks that benefit mitigating PTSD with some mobility inclusion such as:
Operation Sidekick is a small program and we have a limited number of dogs available at any given time. We only take referrals at this time through veteran advocates such as Veterans Service Officers, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Therapists for their patients/clients. Given that a service dog is a form of medical treatment, the idea of adding a dog to a treatment plan should be discussed with a mental healthcare professional ahead of time.
Once it is decided that a service dog would be a good treatment option, the referring physician or representative can reach out to our Program Director, Sara Ondrako at email@example.com. At that time, an application will be submitted and a phone interview conducted to determine whether a Sidekick is both available and a good fit for the inquiring veteran and his/her family.
Where do our dogs come from?nick2019-11-20T19:18:24-05:00
Due to the high euthanasia rate of Pit Bulls in the public sheltering system, the American Pit Bull Foundation pulls pregnant females and newborn puppies with their mothers from shelters for Operation Sidekick. Part of our program mission is to reduce the euthanasia of an estimated 1200 Pit Bulls per day and by selecting these dogs, not only can we accomplish this, we can also set our dogs up for the best success in becoming service animals given the researched methodology we use.
Why did APBF start Operation Sidekick?nick2019-11-20T19:19:48-05:00
Thousands of pit bulls are killed in shelters every week across the United States. These dogs have been plagued with a horrible stigma that is completely misaligned. They’ve been abused, abandoned, neglected, and stereotyped more than any other breed class of dogs. Yet, pit bull type dogs often come with not only an insatiable love for human attention, but also a work ethic that makes them highly trainable for service work such as PTSD mitigation.
Though it is perfectly possible to train your own service dog with the help of a trainer, if you are an individual needing the treatment provided by a service dog, it is incredibly challenging to provide the environment, confidence building, structure, and responsibilities that come with service dog training for PTSD. Training a service dog and using a service dog to mitigate a disability are very different from each other and it is ineffective to both use a dog and train a dog simultaneously.
The exception to this is if you already own a highly skilled service dog who will be nearing retirement, your symptoms are currently under control, and you understand that training a puppy to adulthood as a service dog is never a guarantee.
I’m a Veteran – I Don’t Need a Dog Myself But Want to Help. What Can I do?nick2019-11-20T19:21:58-05:00
We do not take in privately owned surrenders or privately rescued dogs to train for service work. APBF follows proven methods for training as demonstrated by the respected service dog breeding and training community. With the exception of an unplanned, donated litter at the appropriate age, all of our dogs come from shelters. Even though a dog is a good dog, it does not mean that it is a good dog for service work.
What is the difference between a Therapy Dog, a Service Dog, and an Emotional Support Dog?nick2019-11-20T19:23:34-05:00
Therapy dogs can provide a variety of services to multiple people and/or groups of people, whereas service dogs provide specific services to one individual. Therapy dogs and Emotional Support Animals are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, (also known as ADA) as service dogs are, though Emotional Support Animals are protected under housing regulations and the Air Carrier Access Act, (ACAA). Therapy dogs do not have federal protections for access to transportation or public facilities.
Emotional Support Dogs are utilized to mitigate a variety of mental illnesses through companionship and affection.
Operation Sidekick is training service dogs, also known as assistance dogs, however, those dogs that show great potential in becoming therapy dogs over service dogs will be trained and certified as such. APBF uses therapy dogs in our educational efforts, including our Positive Pit Care School Program.
What happens to the dogs that don’t make it through the program?nick2019-11-20T19:24:07-05:00
Not every dog was built to be a service dog, despite how much training they have and how young we start. For our dogs that simply aren’t 100% cut out for the work involved in being a Sidekick, we will try to align them with a different community job that they may excel at, or, they may be placed for adoption through APBF’s Adoption Program.
How long does training take?nick2019-11-20T19:24:48-05:00
No. Service dogs are working dogs that need to be paired with a person to fulfill their duties. Dogs that are well-trained for service work, but do not meet our requirements for pairing with one of our veterans may be available for adoption but they will not be considered service dogs. OS Service dogs will be matched with clients entering the program that have a need for a service animal.
Is there a service dog standard that Operation Sidekick follows?nick2019-11-20T19:25:37-05:00
Yes! OS follows the guidelines of Assistance Dogs International which is a coalition of nonprofit service dog associations in place to ensure that high standards are met in training, education, and placement of service dogs. APBF is not a member of or affiliated with ADI, we simply believe in their standards in addition to ours.
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