When and why was Summit Assistance Dogs founded?
Summit was founded in March 2000 by Sue Meinzinger, a graduate of the Assistance Dog Institute in Santa Rosa, California, in response to the overwhelming need for more assistance dogs. There are more than 55 million Americans living with various disabilities, and the wait time for a service dog can be as long as two to five years.
How is Summit Assistance Dogs funded?
The majority of our funding is from generous individual donors. We also receive funding from corporate donors, various organizations and foundation grants. Our graduates are vital in assisting Summit with fundraising, both with their personal donations and by helping us find new donors. We receive no government funding.
Is my donation tax deductible?
Summit is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. Our Tax ID Number is 91-2048706.
How many staff members does Summit have?
We currently have seven paid staff, two of whom are part time.
What services does Summit provide?
Summit provides highly trained mobility, hearing and therapy dogs for people with disabilities. We also do educational presentations for service clubs, churches and other community groups.
How many assistance dogs has Summit placed?
We have placed 74 graduate pairs since 2000. See our Graduates Gallery
Applying For a Dog
How do I go about applying for a dog?
The first step is to read our Apply page thoroughly and become familiar with our process and our requirements. Then you contact us, preferably by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and provide a brief description of what kind of assistance dog you are interested in. If we determine that we can meet your needs and that you are a good candidate for a service dog, we will send you an application packet to complete and submit to us.
What happens after I submit my application?
This is explained in detail on our Apply page.
How far away do you place dogs?
We are willing to discuss placement anywhere. However, graduating with a Summit dog requires many trips to our facility in northwestern Washington State at the recipient’s expense, so we normally find that people who live far from us are happier finding organizations closer to their homes.
How long is the wait for a dog?
This is a difficult question to answer, because there are many factors involved in making the right match of an applicant with a service dog. Some people wait as long as two to five years; others may wait only six months. Placements are not on a first-come, first-served basis, but rather on the appropriate match of skills and temperament.
Do I have to pay for my dog?
No, we do not charge our applicants for a dog. We do, however, ask our applicants to contribute as they are able and to help with fund raising. We also request that each qualified applicant submit an application for a scholarship to the Assistance Dog United Campaign.
If I get on the waiting list, am I guaranteed a dog?
No. We do not offer any kind of guarantee of successful placement. There are too many variables involved to do so.
Is it okay to apply to more than one organization for a dog?
Yes. In fact, we encourage it. We do ask, however, that if you know you are getting a dog from another organization, you let us know so we can take you off our waiting list.
Does Summit train all kinds of assistance dogs?
No. Currently Summit trains three kinds of dogs – mobility assistance, hearing and therapy dogs.
Will Summit help me train my own dog?
No. We only train dogs we select specifically for our program.
Will Summit certify my own dog?
No. We only certify the dogs we select, train and place.
What breeds of dogs does Summit use?
We consider almost any breed or mixed breed for assistance work. The most important thing is not the breed but the specific animal, so we do an immense amount of evaluation and testing on each puppy and dog before it is accepted into the program. Certain breeds such as Hounds, Giant breeds and Pit Bulls would normally not be considered due to inherent temperament and/or behavior tendencies or because of negative public perception.
What age of dog does Summit look for?
We accept dogs into our training program from seven weeks to approximately two years of age.
Does Summit use dogs from shelters, breed rescue groups and owners needing to rehome their pets?
Yes. Summit is dedicated to making every effort to use these dogs. To this end, we have developed a comprehensive evaluation process that involves about 16 different tests.
Does Summit produce their own litters?
We have bred seven litters. The first was born in December 2004, the latest in November 2010.
Does Summit sell any of the puppies from their breeding program?
Yes. If we have a large litter or a puppy that is not suitable for assistance work, we will consider selling.
What methods does Summit use to train the dogs?
Summit dogs are trained using positive reinforcement (food, praise, play) to shape desired behaviors. We structure our training plans to meet the individual needs of each dog.
How long does it take to train a Summit assistance dog?
Dogs are typically in training for two years, first with their puppy raisers and then with Summit’s staff trainers. Some of our dogs, including those taken from shelters, spend nine weeks in our Prison Partnership Training Program, where they receive training in basic obedience and skills.
How much does it cost to train a dog?
The average cost of acquiring, raising and training a service dog for about two years and providing lifetime follow-up care to our clients is approximately $25,000. This includes the cost of dogs we bring into the program but who don’t make the grade for some reason.
What causes dogs to not succeed as assistance dogs?
There are many reasons a dog may not succeed, but the major causes for a dog being released from the program are aggression, fear, poor health and high activity level.
What happens to the dogs that do not succeed?
Summit is totally committed to finding every dog the right “forever” home. Some of our released dogs may go on to other careers such as law enforcement or search and rescue. Some are available as pets. An adoption fee is charged according to the breed of dog and the level of training it has. To view our released dogs available for adoption go to Petfinder.