What is your mission?
Soldier’s Best Friend provides U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with Service or Therapeutic Companion Dogs, most of which are rescued from local shelters. The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once and inspires countless others.
Is SBF a not-for -profit charity?
Yes, SBF is a 501(c)3 tax exempt public charity.
When did SBF begin?
SBF was incorporated with the state of Arizona in January 2011 as a non-profit corporation. We began our first pairings and trainings in May 2011.
Does a Service Dog or Therapeutic Companion Dog really help the veteran’s symptoms of PTSD?
Yes! Anecdotal studies show as many as 80% of patients improve. Some are even reducing or eliminating their need for medication.
Why do I need a Service Dog or a Therapeutic Companion Dog?
A Service or Therapeutic Companion Dog can help you recover and adjust back into civilian life easier if you experience:
- Panic attacks
- Bad Nightmares
- Uneasiness in crowded places
- Sleep disturbance
- Suicidal thoughts
- Reclusive behavior
What kind of tasks will my dog be trained to do and how is that going to help my symptoms of PTSD or TBI?
The following are a few examples of what a Service or Therapeutic Companion Dog could do for you:
- Travel beside you in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, buses, etc. helping to ease any anxiety you may experience. **For service dogs only, in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
- When in a crowded environment your dog will stay between you and another person creating additional space.
- Helping to deal with several personal or public issues that may suddenly arise. An example might be the dog making physical contact in the event of rising anxiety.
- The necessity of paying attention to your dog in various public settings allows you to be less vigilant.
- Help aid you in unstable walking situations.
- Pick objects up off the floor for you.
What is the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapeutic Companion Dog?
A Service Dog has been trained to perform a minimum of three (3) tasks specific to its handler’s disability. It is allowed by law to accompany its handler to public places such as the veteran’s work place, restaurants, buses, stores etc. These are rights set forth in the American Disability Act (ADA).
A Therapeutic Companion Dog will not be allowed to enter most public venues. Exceptions are airplane cabins and living in non-pet friendly housing.
Which dog is best for me?
The Service Dog is for handlers with PTSD who need the medical benefit of their dog on a constant basis. The Therapeutic Companion Dog will benefit the veteran while at home and in areas where any dog is allowed. They will be trained with specific tasks to help the veteran cope with their PTSD.
What and how is qualification accomplished?
We qualify our service dogs by training them to meet criteria compatible with the CGC and Public Access Tests, require a minimum of three (3) service tasks that the dog performs and we give our veteran a written exam with questions dealing with proper health care, husbandry, and training techniques of their dog. We also examine the veteran on their knowledge of the ADA laws. When all of these are accomplished, our veteran and their dog graduate and the dog qualifies as a service dog.
How much will your program cost the veteran?
There will be absolutely no fees to the veteran during the placement and training period. We are committed to that.
The only costs to the veteran would be transportation, housing and their own meals if they have to relocate to Arizona during the training period.
All of our dogs will be spayed, neutered, vaccinated and receive all recommended preventative medications prior to placement. If you are placed with a rescue dog, all veterinary services, and most supplies will be at no charge to the veteran during the training process. Dogs owned by the veteran will be offered veterinary services at a reduced rate during training.
Following graduation, ownership of the rescue dog is transferred to the veteran who will then be responsible for costs and care. Reduced veterinary fees are offered through a group of volunteer veterinary hospitals in Arizona.
Do you have PTSD or TBI therapists advising you on the needs of the individual veteran?
Yes! We are advised by two practicing therapists with close to 50 combined years of veteran PTSD treatment experience on issues specific to veterans living with PTSD/TBI.
Where do the dogs come from?
SBF is devoted to rescuing homeless Arizona dogs. We have a network of rescue groups and shelters throughout Arizona, such as the Arizona Humane Society, to acquire our dogs. If the veteran has their own personal dog, and it meets behavior and temperament standards, it is possible for their dog to participate in the program.
Who owns the dog?
SBF owns its rescued dogs until the veteran graduates. After graduation, ownership is transferred to the veteran.
Can I use my own dog for training?
Yes, in some cases. We will evaluate your dog for behavior and temperament standards to determine if it will be accepted into our training program. Some examples of characteristics of your dog we will not accept are:
- Aggressive behavior of any type towards people or other animals.
- Wolf and Coyote Hybrids will not be accepted for training as service dogs.
- Extreme anxiety or nervousness.
- Under age of 1 year or over the age of 3 years.
Can I pick out my dog or choose the breed?
When selecting a dog for our program, the first consideration is whether the dog is capable of doing the work. Secondarily, the dog must be of the size and temperament to be a good fit for the veteran’s living situation. Breed/type preferences can be considered after other criteria are met.
Will the dog be fostered during its training?
No. Once the dog is paired with its handler, they live together from that point on. Our program is based on an owner-handler model, which emphasizes the human-animal bond by teaching the handler to train his/her dog. This model also empowers the handler to continue lifelong training of his/her dog.
How long will the training take before my dog and I graduate?
On average, Service Dog training takes 6-9 months to complete the program.
For a Therapeutic Companion Dog, training averages 3-5 months.
Do I need to be an Arizona resident to be accepted into the program?
No! We consider all active military and veterans of any U.S. military branch for acceptance. However, you will need to be in Arizona for the training sessions AND be responsible to find housing during the training period.
How do I apply for a service dog?
Go to the “Apply Now” page on our website, complete the online form and submit it. We will then email a more comprehensive application packet to you for consideration of placement and training with a service dog.
If you do not have email access, we can mail the application packet. Please call (623) 218-6486 to request a packet be mailed to you.
What is involved in the application process?
- Go to our “Apply Now” page. Complete and submit the initial application form. You can call us at (623) 218-6486 if you have any questions.
- We will e-mail a formal application to you. This will include a 4-page application to be filled out by you, a letter of diagnosis to be completed by your doctor, counselor or case worker, two (2) letters of reference; at least one of these must be from a non-family member and a VA medical release of information form. SBF also requires a copy of your DD 214.
- Your paperwork will be submitted for review.
- SBF representatives will perform a home inspection and conduct a personal interview with you and your family (if any).
- After all this is completed, we review the application papers and decide acceptance status.
Where do you train?
We train at locations in the Phoenix area, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Sierra Vista.
Do you accept veterans not diagnosed with PTSD or TBI?
Our program serves veterans with combat-related PTSD or TBI. A confirmation of diagnosis is required as part of the application process.
Do you accept non veterans that have PTSD or TBI?
Currently our services are only offered to active military members or veterans.
How long does it take to get in the program after the point of initial contact?
From the point of you having all your paperwork submitted, it takes approximately 2 – 3 months to know of your acceptance status. If we are partnering you with a dog, searching for a rescue dog begins with the veteran’s acceptance, sometimes taking an extended period of time. The type of dog needed is dictated by the veteran’s living situation. Living situations vary and can affect the time it takes to find the right dog. Veterans owning their dogs are asked to attend a behavior and temperament evaluation in a public setting to determine the dog’s acceptance status.
Non veteran type FAQs
I want to volunteer how do I get involved?
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please call 623-218-6486 or you may e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the e-mail include your: full name, phone number, email and area of interest or skills. Our Volunteer Coordinator will contact you.
Can I donate a dog?
Sorry, NO. Part of our mission is to rescue homeless Arizona dog from shelters. We partner with specific Arizona rescue groups and shelters to acquire dogs.
Do you have sister organizations outside of Arizona?
We are strictly an Arizona-based organization. There are many organizations across the country doing similar work. We have no formal relationships with those organizations.
Do you give talks to local organizations?
Absolutely. If you are interested in having Soldier’s Best Friend attend your presentation or event please call 623-218-6486 or you may email: email@example.com. In your e-mail include: contact name, phone number, e-mail address, organization info and proposed date(s) time of event. Our Event Coordinator will contact you.