June 13, 2018
The first third-party, hands-on assessment program for service dogs and their handlers aims to eliminate discrimination against veterans and educate business owners
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, June 13, 2018 — In honor of Posttraumatic Stress (PTS) Awareness month, American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) are proud to announce the first-ever assessment and credentialing program that protects veterans and their service dogs: “Operation Service Dog Access.” American Humane partnered with NAVSO, the Schultz Family Foundation, and other experts to create national standards for service dogs of veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury (TBI), in addition to a thorough application and hands-on assessment process for service dogs and their handlers. This independent, rigorous credentialing program evaluates the legitimacy of each veteran and service dog pair through an assessment and public performance evaluation, monitored by unbiased experts. Each veteran and service dog pair who successfully completes the assessment receives a credential that is entered into a nationwide, publicly-accessible database found at www.servicedogaccess.org.
The credential and Operation Service Dog Access database of each service dog verified under the program help veterans feel confident that they can avoid excessive questioning from business owners about their service dog, and give business owners peace of mind that they are allowing a legitimate service dog in their place of business. Furthermore, these new tools reduce potential liability concerns related to service dog admittance under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
One in five American veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTS, and thousands of veterans are affected by TBI, a complex injury that carries a spectrum of cognitive and communication issues. Trained service dogs can help veterans navigate the debilitating symptoms of PTS and TBI, but a nationwide lack of independent service dog standards and assessments leaves the door open for veterans to train or obtain a service dog that is ill-suited to mitigate their symptoms and puts them at risk of discrimination from businesses that are unaware or unable to verify the legitimacy of a veteran’s service dog.
“American Humane is proud to partner with NAVSO to create Operation Service Dog Access, the nation’s first independent credentialing program for service dogs,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “By providing veteran and service dog teams with the program’s credential and informing business owners and employees how to verify the legitimacy of the pair, we hope to improve access for those with service dogs and reduce the possibility of public confrontation and discrimination.”
“Our nation’s veterans with invisible wounds of war and their medically prescribed service dogs are disproportionally affected by discrimination in public places,” said Chris Ford, NAVSO’s CEO. “We are thrilled to partner with the nation’s leading humane organization, which also has a long-standing history in serving our nation’s military, on such an impactful program for veterans as Operation Service Dog Access.”
The application and assessment process is currently operating in a pilot phase but veterans who have a medically prescribed service dog as a result of a PTS or TBI diagnosis can begin the application process today. Learn more at www.servicedogaccess.org. The vision for Operation Service Dog Access is to open up this credential to any person who has a service dog.
About American Humane
Founded in 1877, American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, has been a pioneer in the development of animal-assisted therapy and has been helping the U.S. military and military animals for more than 100 years. For more information about American Humane, please visit www.AmericanHumane.org.
About the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO)
NAVSO is exclusively focused on transforming the veteran services marketplace to improve the lives of veterans and military families. Since 2015, NAVSO has accomplished this mission by fostering innovation and delivering resources to those who serve this remarkable community, fund their support, study their needs or employ them. NAVSO offers educational programming, provides direct consultation, hosts summits, commissions research, shares democratized data resources, and facilitates the evaluation of meaningful services. Learn more at www.navso.org.
About the Schultz Family Foundation
The Schultz Family Foundation, established in 1996 by Howard and Sheri Schultz, creates pathways of opportunity for populations facing barriers to success. The Foundation invests in innovative solutions and partnerships that unlock people’s potential, and strengthen our businesses, communities, and our nation. In March 2014, the Schultz Family Foundation launched Onward Veterans, a national initiative that empowers post-9/11 veterans and their families to successfully transition to civilian life. In May 2015, it launched “Onward Youth”, a similar initiative focused on “opportunity youth,” 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of school and not working.