Frequently Asked Questions

Autism Service PALS

What dog breeds does PALS use as autism service dogs? Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Golden/Lab crosses.

How old are the dogs when they are matched? The age varies depending on when the client application is received and approved. The matching and client training process may begin when the dog is still a puppy in its puppy raiser’s home, but not officially placed until the dog is at least 14 months of age and has passed all of his/her medical screenings.  Since our team training is on an individual team basis, placement will be made when each team has met PALS rigorous guidelines.

How long is the application process?
The application process takes approximately one to two months. A potential client’s parent must call or send an email requesting a home interview and an autism service dog application.  An in-home interview is scheduled.   A PALS representative will take a current dog-in-training to the home interview to meet the child and his/her family.  When completed applications, application fees and PALS representative’s recommendations are received, PALS’ client committee will meet to discuss possible placement of a PALS dog with each applicant.  Families will be notified regarding their status soon thereafter.

How much does it cost? The average expense in breeding, socializing, raising, training and placing a service dog is $20,000.  However, since PALS receives contributions and donations from the public, and will apply for grants, the fee for obtaining a service dog and the necessary family team training is significantly less.  Each family is asked to fund raise or contribute according to their financial ability to offset a portion of our costs.  PALS will assist families with fundraisers when asked to do so.  Potential client and service dog stories are featured on our website.  If a particular story moves you, please help that family by generously giving a donation specifically earmarked for that child or dog.

Who is eligible to apply for a PALS Service dog?  Any family with a child on the autism spectrum between the ages of 5 and 15 years of age.  The child must not be violent towards animals.  Each family is carefully screened.

Do Autism Service Dogs have public access with a child with autism?  Very definitely, yes!

Does the service dog take the place of the primary caregiver?  Absolutely not!  PALS dogs assist in helping the child to stay safe, interrupt repetitive behaviors and are a constant friend, just to name a few.  They are dogs and are not responsible for taking the place of a human caregiver.

Are the dogs trained to find my child if s/he gets lost?  No.  Our dogs are not trained in search and rescue.  If a child is missing, call 911 or local law enforcement immediately.  We do train the children and dogs to play the “find me” game.  Hopefully, when the child is scared, they will remember to call out to their dog thereby alerting those looking for the child.

Facility PALS

Who can apply for a PALS facility dog?  Any professional working with children with special needs can apply.

What does a PALS facility dog do? Facility PALS assist professionals working with children with special needs in a variety of settings.

Does the team have public access?  No, facility dogs do not have public access.

 How much does the dog and team training cost?  $2,500.

Volunteer PALS

Do PALS Social, Therapy, Reading, Comfort and Courthouse Dogs have public access like a service dog does?  NO, they do not! PALS Social, Therapy, Reading, Comfort & Courthouse Dogs are allowed to go wherever “pet” dogs are allowed unless they have been approved to visit one of PALS facility partners or venues. 

Which breeds of dogs can attend PALS Social, Therapy & Reading Dog Team Training?  Due to insurance restrictions only non bully breed dogs can attend our team training as long as s/he is not aggressive towards people and/or other dogs, is well behaved, knows basic commands (sit, down, stay, come, leave it, etc.), vaccinations are current and her/his veterinarian agrees that s/he has the temperament suitable for volunteering as a social, therapy, reading and/or comfort dog in our community.

How old does a dog have to be to participate in PALS Social, Therapy & Reading Dog Team Training? A minimum of 11 months of age for the team training and one year of age for certification.

Which breeds of dogs will PALS not certify as Social, Therapy & Reading Dogs? PALS will not certify dogs from breeds that are considered to be “aggressive” by the insurance industry and the general public.

When can my dog and I become certified by PALS?  Approximately four weeks after a team completes PALS 15 hour team training, they will be offered an opportunity to participate in PALS 17- point team certification evaluation.  After passing PALS evaluation we will mentor each team for three visits at a facility you want to visit. 

How often are Social, Therapy & Reading Dog Team Training's offered & when? Currently three times a year— winter, spring and fall 

Cost?  $175 for three, five hour team training's (Saturday, Sunday, Saturday, 10:00 to 3:30 each day)

Why is there additional training for Comfort PALS? To train and prepare new teams to interact with people during and after a trauma; to be around emergency personnel and equipment; and to volunteer in highly emotionally charged situations.  Some additional training may be required by organizations that PALS has partnered with such as SCOE, American Red Cross, Hospice, etc.

Cost?  PALS does not charge for this additional training, however, our partners might.

Are there annual cost?  Yes.  Each team (one handler & one dog) pays $50 per year.  These annual costs cover our insurance allowing PALS social, therapy teams when visiting our PALS facilities.   Each additional dog or handler per family pays an additional $25 per year.

Are teams required to purchase a uniform?   Yes.  Each dog will wear a PALS cape and each handler will wear a PALS shirt and tan pants when representing PALS as volunteers in the community at facilities or events.