a man kneels on the beach next to his service dog

20 Years of Helping Veterans and First Responders

Live Without Boundaries®

Stay updated on news, special events, graduate stories, videos, and more about the inspiring individuals we've been honored to serve and the extraordinary dogs, volunteers, donors and staff who have contributed to 20 years of life-changing impact.

20 Years of Changing & Saving Lives...

In 2003, the Guide Dog Foundation recognized a shift within the assistance dog industry that brought a new era of service dogs and their important work to the forefront. The Foundation embraced this shift and used their accreditation with International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), to join Assistance Dogs International (ADI), allowing them to embark on a new journey of service dog work. As the Guide Dog Foundation was established following World War II to provide guide dogs to veterans who had lost their vision or had low vision as a result of their service, making the move to provide veterans with ‘service dogs’ came naturally. 

The team used their existing connections to Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and other veteran organizations across the country to recruit applicants for service dogs. At the time, veterans with disabilities as a result of their service during the Iraq War and other current conflicts began to filter through the VA system. It was this influx of veterans needing additional resources that prompted the Foundation to solely dedicate a unique entity for service dog work and helping veterans in a new way... thus an idea became reality and America’s VetDogs was founded. Originally operating as a program of the Guide Dog Foundation , America's VetDogs became its own incorporated 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2007. 

From 2003-2007, America’s VetDogs placed service and guide dogs with veterans in need through home training placements and by completing the training with veterans in VA facilities. In October 2008, America’s VetDogs hosted

 its very first in-person service dog class at their campus in Smithtown, New York. Since then, the services of America’s VetDogs has expanded to provide these life changing dogs to veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities at no cost to them.

America’s VetDogs service dogs are taught specialized tasks and skills such as: rest, retrieve dropped items, positional cues to extend their handler’s personal space when in a crowded setting, counterbalance, nightmare interruption, press buttons to summon help and to open doors, seizure response, hearing dog tasks, walk alongside a wheelchair or power scooter and more. Each task and skill are a part of carefully structured programs of America’s VetDogs that includes service dogs, guide dogs, PTSD service dogs, seizure response dogs, military facility dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs for military sexual trauma. A hallmark of America's VetDogs various programs is its meticulous matching process to ensure that each student is matched with the dog that best suits a person’s mobility, personality, lifestyle, physical and emotional needs. 

While some of these life-changing dogs are raised by the organization’s civilian puppy raisers, most are raised through the ‘Prison Puppy Program.’ Started in 2015, the program was created as a way for incarcerated individuals to help veterans during their time in a correctional facility. Today, 14 facilities up and down the east coast participate in the program. Select facilities prioritize involvement for incarcerated individuals who are veterans – giving them a unique opportunity to give back to a fellow veteran. 

In 2016, America’s VetDogs quickly became a household name when an adorable black Labrador puppy came running out behind a curtain announcing a partnership with NBC’s TODAY Show for their first future service dog in training and our first ‘Puppy with a Purpose®’. This exclusive program acts as a fundraising, awareness and training campaign for the organization, drawing a national spotlight to its work. TODAY’s partnership became a catalyst that sparked new partnerships with professional sports teams and media outlets including: various NBC news stations across the country, New York Islanders (NHL), Washington Capitals (NHL), Atlanta United (MLS), Houston Texans (NFL), New York Mets (MLB), Nashville Soccer Club (MLS), and more.

In 2018, the America's VetDogs brand went global after announcing the placement of service dog Sully with former President George H.W. Bush. Although Sully H.W. Bush’s time with the President was short, the impact this placement had on the organization was insurmountable. While the brand reached new levels of awareness through these opportunities, the demand for our services increased, resulting in a record-breaking amount of placed service dogs with deserving veterans and first responders with disabilities, free of charge.

From 2003-2022, nearly 950 dogs have been placed with veterans, first responders, and active-duty service members with disabilities, free of charge. Nearly 950 individuals have been given their freedom back to once again live a life without boundaries. It is thanks to generous donors, partners, graduates, volunteers, and employees both current and former, that the last 20 years of accomplishments has been made possible. 

Take a more detailed historical look at America’s VetDogs history , check out our newsletter, The VetDogs Sentinel .


 America's VetDogs in the news....