D4D’s Adoption of Standards
Dogs for Diabetics (D4D) has adopted the standards established for the service dog community by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). D4D has also developed and adopted its own standards of performance to govern its work with dogs, clients, donors, and the general public. These standards are intended to assure that D4D meets its mission objectives and guide its operations. The standards are based on D4D’s experience as the seminal organization providing Medical Alert Assistance Dogs to insulin-dependent diabetics. This experience shows the significant risks that exist and reflects the need to establish standards for the Medical Assistance Dog community.
D4D became an accredited member of ADI early in its formation, receiving full accreditation from ADI in August 2007. As a member of ADI, it actively promotes their standards of performance and has included several of those standards on our website under the section, Assistance Dog Standards.
The Need for Standards for the Medical Assistance Dog Industry
The exploding growth of providers of Medical Assistance Dogs reflects the need for the establishment of standards as none currently exist. ADI has established many standards, but none specifically address the specialized skills or risks of using a medical assistance dog.
Medical assistance dogs are intended to provide support for the risk of medical conditions that can result in great harm and even death. Accordingly, the critical nature of that support should be addressed by standards requiring high-quality performance of the dogs. Demand for these dogs is great, and comes from persons who are desperately seeking help. There is a significant possibility that distressed consumers may not fully appreciate the risks and may be mislead by unethical providers.
D4D believes that promoting standards for medical assistance dogs is an extension of its responsibilities as a fully accrediated member of ADI.
There are a growing number of organizations as well as trainers claiming to provide service dogs to assist diabetics. Some are successful, while many are not. Some are promoting services ranging from week-long seminars to placing immature puppies and untrained rescue dogs with clients. Some programs provide little monitoring or follow up, and few offer support over the working life of the dog. Costs to the client range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. D4D follows the organizational models of Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence and provides dogs and services for the working life of the dog at minimal cost.Training and providing medical assistance dogs is a complex process that addresses serious medical issues. Accordingly, standards are needed to assure that this industry grows in a safe and sound fashion.
From its origin as a research project in 1999, D4D recognized that it had a responsibility to establish standards of quality and ethics for its own performance. Accordingly, D4D believes that promoting standards for medical assistance dogs is an extension of its responsibilities as a fully accrediated member of ADI. The public deserves to be ethically served with quality assistance dogs.
The Difficulties of Training Medical Assistance Dogs
D4D’s experience has shown that the training of a dog to recognize the scent is only the first element of a complex process.
D4D is highly successful in placing 70 percent of the dogs that it trains. This rate of success is due primarily to the high quality dogs that it receives from Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence. D4D has found that dogs received from other sources, including private breeders and rescue organizations, have a placement rate of less than 10 percent.
The reasons for reduced success rates are many. These range from limited early obedience training, a lack of early socialization as well as problems associated with the dog’s work ethic, lack of attention to their handler, dog distraction and many other issues. Assistance dogs must be publicly accessible as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. These requirements reflect the high standards of performance established by Assistance Dogs International.
Obtaining and working with a medical assistance dog is a venture that has the potential for success or failure. Any organization providing medical assistance dogs needs to disclose the risks and provide appropriate ways to help clients create successful working teams.
See D4D’s Standards
See Medical Assistance Dog Standards to review the standards that D4D has established for its own operation. When looking at potential providers of medical assistance dogs, D4D suggests that consumers seek similar insight into those providers to understand how they address the risks inherent in providing these services.