Autism Service Dogs of America - WARNING! | Autism PDD


Hello all,

The community for autistic families is tight knit, so my wife and I wanted to pass on a bad experience in hopes others do not fall victim to the same circumstance.

In Lake Oswego, OR there is a facility that trains service dogs for autistic children.  My wife and I bought a dog from the facility.  Here is what happened.

The dog provided was not well trained.  It struggled with basic commands such as "heal".  It barked aggressively at strangers and therapists coming into our home.  From the moment the dog entered our home, it showed aggressive tendencies that cumulated with biting my wife on the second day of ownership. 

Please be careful when pursuing a service animal for your children.  My wife and I are still looking for an animal for our son, but are making the decision based on good interviewing and reference checking as opposed to using our emotions and trusting the provider. 

Please feel free to contact my wife Kim or my self if you are considering working with this group or have questions regarding this process.


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  This is so sad to hear because we have been wanting for a while to get a service dog for my 6 year old son.  What was the name of the company or group that you went through?


Thanks for your encouragement.  My wife and I have found another organization to work with.  When we approached them with the request of wanting our son to be involved in the dog training process to help with transition into our home, their response was "absolutely".  ASDA would not allow this.  This seems odd to us and makes us believe that they do not know much about Autistic children and their behaviors. 


As a service dog trainer and owner of a company that provides dog to kids on the spectrum and even more importantly as a parent of a child with autism. I am sad to hear about your misfortune  with the dog biting that should have been very apparent before the dog was placed. I hope that you can find another for your child needs. No all organizations belong to ADI, but still provide high quality dogs. I wish you the best.

When interviewing dog trainers, check with Assistance Dogs International for reference.  This organization oversees many of the Assistance Dog organizations world wide.  Google them on the net for more information.


I have been searching for a dog or puppy for my three year old son with pdd,nos I did not know that there were special place to get a dog for him where do I searchI must second the OP's warning regarding Autism Service Dogs of America.

The trainer we dealt with repeatedly demonstrated a fundamental lack of knowledge regarding autism. My list of complaints is extensive and as of yet, unresolved.

I have filed a complaint with better business bureau (for what its worth), and contacted local autism awareness and support groups with my experience.

Legal options are being considered.

Please, please, please fully investigate this organization before you commit to them.Firefiend39000.901875bumpin awayThese posts have been extremely helpful! We have been raising money for a service dog for our son. Through the company ASDA. I have been trying to find out more about this company something felt a little weird. I am so thankful we did go through with it. It is very disappointing to have to go through the process again. Worst of all our son would really benefit from this. I am going to ALERT Starnet in my area so they will be able to tell others ASDA is not credible. Thanks again.

With this warming in mind, are there other reputable organizations where other parents have had good experiences in finding a service dog?  We are in the midwest and are at the early stages of searching for a service dog for our son.

any additional advice appreciated!

WOW   I had no idea that service dogs of atisum even exicted. We were only told that getting a pet just for our ds would help him learn empathy and patiences. That didn't bother me since we already had a But I have noticed even tho this puppy has bonded well with ds, the puppy gets very scared when he has a melt down. To the point he has scared the poop right out of her. 

jormi - Not all puppies are as they appear, this is just an FYI - not all puppies make a good service dog.  It is based on genetics, temperament, personality, and how the puppy was raised the first 8 weeks.  I have 30 + years in the dog industry, showing, grooming, vet. assist. training.  My 9 yo granddaughter, with autism, has 2 service dogs, which my daughter and I trained.  Puppies that are afraid of certain things may not be in the right career.  Many of the org. that breed their own dogs, such a Guide Dogs for the Blind, have app. 1/2 of each litter that goes on to a career change.  If you have any questions, more than happy to help.

sorry I don't think I was clear. I just found out about this type of service dogs. No we where just told to get him a "pet" of his own, let him take the lead in its trainning and care. Now yes this did seem odd but like I said we are so lost in what he needs anymore that we try eveything. I have differant training with animals I have worked in shelters so I knew what to look for in a "family pet". We got him a 4month old Golden Ret. puppy. We also got him some books on training but he is having problems intergrating that into his ruteen. I wont give up any of or animals but if we can maybe train his or get another one....I don't know but at least it's something else I can look into for him. Thank you for your tips and advice.

My name is Sunny and I am new to the forum.  I am not sure if I found the forum by luck or FATE.  I keep reading and re-reading the post because I just bust out in tears everytime and have to start reading all over again.

I whelped my first litter of Chihuahuas 3 months before my son Austin was born.  Austin is now 7 and has enjoyed and assissted me in raising 20+ litters of puppies.  I never intended to become a "breeder" but when I saw how the experience helped him and our relationship as mother and "difficult/different" child, I knew I had to learn how to become a responsible REAL breeder.  I invested in conformational correct dogs, started temperment and health testing, joined kennel clubs, and entered the show ring!

Okay - What does that have to do with my child having Autism?  I found a connection and a "therapy" I could be a part of with my son.  I saw a child learn to be gentle, still, soft spoken, and KIND in the presence of the pups.  It was ONLY when he held a Chihuahua puppy that he experienced this peace.  Now at age 7, the dogs are his at-home supports (mine too).

As a breeder, I gain and grow daily with my dogs.  Did you know there are rules and methods for communicating with dogs?  Austin understands this process giving him a foundation for interaction.  I wish the same rules could spill over to children on the playground.  Austin doesn't have a clue how to deal with the sporatic nature of humans.  The dogs are Austin's connection to the world.  I guess because Chihuahuas are small, I have very little trouble bringing them wherever we go - Walgreens, restaurants with patios, festivals, show and tell at school,the park, etc...  They give Austin the confidence and foundation to interact with others.  Example - A child walks up to us (Austin, puppy, and I) and ask "Can I pet your dog?"  Austin says something like " My mommy has hand sanitizer because there is no sink."  I might say something like sure you can pet the puppy - "Austin will tell you how."   This may not sound like much to some parents, but for me it means a lot.  I just witnessed my child handle communication with another child in a confident, calm and considerate manner.  Sometimes he will even use eye contact.  Below is a picture of us during a 4th of July Firework show.  I brought Raven and a set of headphones.  We all had a great time. 

Until a few days ago, I had NO CLUE there were orgs connecting therapy dogs to those with Autism.  I have a new mission and purpose in life.  I want to learn everything I can about these programs (good and bad).  If I can implement any information at home with my child and pups, and help others to cry their eyeballs out with the joy of a "therapy" dog, it will give me the strength to continue raising child and Chihuahua!

Note: Do your homework before bringing home a puppy.  I would gladly help anyone in locating a good PET pup from a responsible breeder.  Our children deserve the best pups we as parents can find.  Learn the right and wrong questions to ask a breeder PRIOR to purchasing a new dog!

For all of those who live in the Pacific NW, I encourage you to call us anytime if you are looking for a trainer.  After our initial mistakes, we took a lot of time doing research and found two trainers we really liked.  We also visited their facilities - I think this is really an important step before anyone makes a decision on who to use.  Look the trainer in the eye, let them know what your expectations are, and gain agreement before you move forward.  Autism Service Dogs of America was very adverse to this; I should have known better. 

Dave or Kim

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Yes I looked into 4 Paws for Ability too...and if memory serves, they use many pound puppies.  -Good that you can save a dog's life; bad that you have NO CLUE of it's genetic predispositions...and you have no choice as to breed, age, etc...

Actually, looking on their website under 'Autism Service Dogs', it looks like they are mainly labs and goldens...

Not saying that they are a bad organization as I don't know.  The pros are it says that they have placed over 100 Autism assistance dogs...and looking at their pics on their website, it looks like they are training their Autism Asst dogs with just the things that an Autistic would need...

The cons -you are still facing a 501(c)3 charity with no legal recourse should you get a dog that does *not* work out for you.  2 weeks required training (double check that; I think that's correct) in their facility in Ohio; all expenses on you.

Good luck.  Somebody please post if you are successful in finding an Autism Asst dog.


Jaye P

Just popping in from another Autism message board...

We were just about to send in our applications (2, we have twins with Autism) to this company, but something didn't 'feel right' about not being able to find any info about this company, or have any contact info, business info, etc...

I literally did another Google search, and lo and behold...I find your thread.

I let the people know on my other Autism chat board what you said (I linked this thread) and at least one other family was already in the process of raising funds for that company as well...

We're just sick about this.  I am so sorry to hear about it; but thank you for posting it somewhere so that we didn't go out and raise/spend ,000 towards a company that does not deliver.


Thanks again,

Jaye P

Ps...I did post this a moment ago but then deleted; I thought I had responded to the wrong thread.  Apologies; I am new to this particular forum.

In regard to the service dog....there is an Ohio based company that trains dogs for the specific need, Autism is one of them. The thing is, you can't buy one. You need to fund-raise on your childs behalf to obtain the funds to fund the training of the dog. When the dog is trained then you must travel to Ohio with the child to spend time with the animal (I think it was 2 weeks) and to make sure everyone does OK with each other. The company's name is Four Paws for Ability, I think. We were thinking of doing this for my 7 y/o Autistic Son. I have since changed my mind in obtaining a service dog and am reconsidering a family pet (dog) instead. I read that when you get a service dog for an Autistic child...the child should be the only person that interacts, plays, feeds, walks, the dog. That wouldn't work out for us. We have 3 kids and my Son whom of which the dog would belong to would not be able to carry out these tasks alone. Just a little food for thought from a newbie. :-) 

I am the Director of Autism Service Dogs of America.  If any reader of this blog would like to contact the numerous satisfied ASDA service dog recipients  that are located throughout the USA please email and we will put you in touch with as many satisfied families as you would like to speak with.  If any reader wishes to speak with me directly regarding any postings herein please email me at the same address.

Respectfully, Priscilla M. Taylor,Director Autism Service Dogs of America


I spoke at a fund raiser  this summer for a family who was working to raise money to train a dog for their son. They were getting the dog from 4 paws, and it seemed like a neat organization. There was another family at the fund raiser who already had a dog from 4 paws, and they seemed to have had a really good experience. Since they had gotten the dog their son's speech had increased significantly, his sensory seeking behaviors decreased, and he was more interested in interacting with people because they would approach him & he'd talk about the dog. It does seem like a pretty good program. Our dog, we got him from a breeder has helped Payne tremendously...I spoke with 4 paws and they really are a stand up organization.

In January 2007 a decision was made to take All Purpose Canines in a different direction.  We are very happy to announce that we are now concentrating our efforts on the Autism Partners Program.  This program has  far exceeded our expectations, not only with its success but with its rapid growth.

Training dogs for children with autism  presents several unique challenges.  All Purpose Canines believes strongly in using a team approach when placing a service dog with a child with autism. This team will include parents, family members, educators and health care professionals.

Because the child may not be able to relate to training outside their own structured environment, our trainers will deliver the dog and do the team training and certification in and around the child's home. Included in the training will be learning basic commands, care of the dog, how to "read" the dog and basic tracking skills. This will be an excellent opportunity for trainers and parents to work and concentrate on any specific issues or areas of concern.

When our trainers deliver the dog, meetings with educators, health care professionals, etc. will be conducted to ensure that everyone understands the service dog concept as it relates to children with autism. A strong bond is part of the reason a service dog can be a successful aid. Therefore, if for no other reason, it is imperative the service dog is allowed to accompany a person with autism to school, work and throughout the community. Requiring the child to be away from their service dog for several hours every day could be harmful to that relationship and therefore damaging to the child. In addition, by "thinking outside the box" it is our belief that the dog can be used effectively in many learning environments and therapy sessions enabling a child with autism greater independence and inclusion within his/her community.

The goal of our program is to address several issues confronting the child diagnosed with autism and his/her family. Some of these issues include, but are not limited to, the following:

I can't imagine how a service dog can be trained to deal with Autism ?

I am on a waiting list to get a service dog for my son who is Diabetic....they are trained to detect changes in the blood sugar, there is a chemical that they can detect and altert....same as service dogs for people with epilipsy.

ANd obviously service dogs for the blind have specific task and functions they can help with. 

What exactly is the claim to an autistic service dog ?  What service are they alleged to perform ?

Inquiring minds would love to know !

Hello All,

This is a topic close to my heart.  I want to reiterate steelfan's opinion of ASDA - everyone on this board knows how we were burned with this organization.

We moved on to a breeder and trainer in Salem, OR called Joy Of Living.  They were spectacular.  While they did not know much about autism, they colaborated with my family to create a training plan for our dog, Austin.  Austin was able to live with us, in two week intervals, to insure his demenor was right for our kids. 

The dog has been a huge asset to our kids and will continue to add to their life experience as they grow older. 

There are lots of good organizations out there.  Make sure you interview well before you choose an organization.


I have been working with a wonderful trainer in MN for the last 2 years.  Her Australian Shepherd had a litter of pups, and I chose one of them for my son. Rosie has been with us since birth (literally, I helped deliver her) and has been in training since about 8 weeks.  She is almost 2 now, the time when it becomes apparent if a dog is really interested in being a service dog or not. No matter how well trained they are, the dog has to WANT to be a service dog.  Luckily for us, it seems that she wants to be.  Her main job is to follow my son around, alert me if he goes out, and lead me to him. She is an excellent tracking dog.  If you have any questions about service dogs, I would be more than happy to help. There are a lot of scams out there, but there are some wonderful trainers to, and it does not have to cost an arm and a leg.


For what it's worth, we decided raising thousands of dollars and waiting two years for a dog was not acceptable to us.  We really don't need a full bore service dog, which goes to school and restaurants...I think, for our child, it would make him stick out like a sore thumb and perhaps make him dependent on the animal for crossing streets,e tc.

We want a therapy dog instead.

Ultimately, I test drove a couple different dogs from rescue organizations.  We had the first dog for three nights and four days....lovely, but he was not all that interested in playing with my boys and had an assassin's look at our cats.

We got Riley, formerly Dale, from Gulf South Golden Retriever Rescue.  Again, we test drove him for four days.  I then took him to a professional trainer for a temperment assessment (free).  The guy pronounced him phenomenal.

So, I gave a home to a nearly two year old Golden who was either lost or stolen...the money went to a great rescue group....we have an excellent dog for our son...and I'm paying money for private training in order to move up to therapy dog level.

The dog was 250. Basic training (private) is 250.  Next level training is 400.

For less than 1000 bucks, we will have a therapy dog by next year and while he is in training, he is here with us and bonding with my kids.  Here he is with Cole, watching cars go through the carwash...and wishing they were in there getting wet themselves!

You have to have the time and inclination to practice the training every single day and be consistent.  But after autism, how hard is that for me to do?  Not. 

You need to take the dog to as many places as he is allowed, but most casual restaurants with outdoor patios will allow them.  T ball fields are fine as long as he is on a leash.  Carwashes are okay, too!  Do consider giving a home to a dog who needs one!

Unless you REALLY need a full bore service animal (opening fridge, carrying bottles of meds to you, accompanying you in restaurants, stopping seizures), I say use the money for therapy or a good life insurance policy on yourself.  Take the dog to a solid trainer and do it won't be "service" level on an official basis, but can do what your child needs it to.

We got a dog from the Humane Society, raised him and gave him his basic training.  Then I had my son.  He was originally diagnosed "developmentally delayed" and we spent the next few years with that.  The dog was awesome with him, he could do anything to the dog, but his gentle confident nature allowed our son to make mistakes with him.  

When we had our daughter, the dog responded as he did with our son, protective and yet passive. 

When another dog came into the house, our dog let him in, when that dog was killed, and our children needed help understanding, our dog sat there and comforted the kids, letting them hang on and staying with them.  6 months after the dog died, our kids were still clinging to our original dog for comfort.  After the kids diagnosis with Autism, I took our original dog with them to school, and to other events, he helped them come out, gave them a conversation starter, watched them on the playground and in general became a tool to find comfort.

This dog was given a letter from our Dr. as a Service Dog because of what he did for the kids and how they responded to his presence.  Without the dog, there was a huge concern that the kids would regress.  I use the dog heavily during times of transition and he's a constant at home. 

Most people can't believe a Doberman would be a good service dog, but they are Pack Animals - there is an order to the pack and as part of our family, the pack is protected - even the 'different' ones since we accept them, the dog accepts them.  Our Dobie is now 11 years old and I provide all his care, the dog helps the kids in transitions and goes everywhere with us, but I handle him - not the kids.  He knows his job, they know, but not everyone has to know.  I take him to school with the kids, he's gentle enough to be on the kindergarten playground, in the classroom and then we leave.  I don't want the kids to use him as a 'crutch' rather a tool. 

Sometimes he'll go to a restaurant with us, if we're traveling or in a huge transition time.  Maybe even the grocery store, but mostly for health reasons, we try not to put him in those places - yes he's allowed, but we don't HAVE to do that ALL the time so we don't. 

I want the kids to learn and transition ok and be ok using the tools, but ultimately learn to be self sufficient without that particular tool.  Since our Dobie is 11 years old, and the state allows us to do our own training, we've purchased a Shepherd to replace him and are going through training with him now.  With this dog, we'll give him Shutzhund Training then work the dog to be with the kids and finalize his training into the Service Dog role. 

The person who did their own training - GOOD FOR YOU!!!  If your interested in doing your own, find a good trainer to work with you, find a pup that works for your family and work it through.  You can do so much without having to pay mega bucks - like that one person listed, only about ,000 and they have a super trained pup, with a local trainer to help when bad habits come up. 

Best wishes to all and thanks for this info, I was going to see if those Dog Trainers in Oregon did anything special but it doesn't sound like they do much more than train and put a vest on the dog - which can be bought on the internet!


I think we should be careful in taking one isolated
experience and then stating that the whole thing is bad.
I am sorry that you had a bad experience. My son is on
the spectrum and has attended camps for ASDA. I can tell
you from everything that I know about this group, that
they take great care in every step of the puppy training
process. If a dog does not pass rigorous testing, they
have to repeat training and if in the end they still are
not up to muster, they are adopted out to a family. I
have seen the dogs myself and they are top notch. There
are many many kids that have had wonderful experiences
from these dogs and it would be a shame to possibly deny
that to a child because of one bad experience. I hope
you consider this before discounting this amazing group.

Please read our experience with "4 Paws for Ability" here:

I cannot express here enough the heartache and frustration Karen Shirk has created for us.  She has a scam that works and we fell for it....


I am a volunteer who has raised two puppies for ASDA.

In reading this thread, it seems like one person who had a bad experience has taken on a vendetta against the organization.

ASDA is a not-for-profit organization that grew from a simple desire to try to help families with autistic children.  They started at a time when service dogs for autism were unheard of, and like any entity they have made mistakes and had learning experiences. I happen to know that gallo_57 is only telling one side of that story - I've heard the other side.  It takes two to tango.

I urge you to evaluate ASDA on their current work, I can guarantee that the dogs who lived with me have changed / are going to change the lives of two families in a very positive way.

Sorry to disagree, but FIREFIEND's post here on this board, indicates that I may not be the only one who has been wronged by this organization.

Not for profit or not, the facts are simple:

We paid ,000 for a service dog that had aggressive behaviors and bit my wife.  When we returned the dog, only half of our money was refunded.

We went on to purchase a service dog from Joys of Living (Salem, OR) for 00 that had been screened for temperament prior to the start of training (picked as a puppy not as a rescue dog as was done at ASDA).  The new animal is perfectly suited for children who can be "hard" on animals.

It sounds as though, through your post, ASDA has made some positive changes to the way they select and train their animals. Glad to hear that things are getting better.  However, other providers in the community are providing animals for much lower cost now, and for families that have children on the spectrum, budgets are very tight.  Investing this kind of capital into an animal that is supposed to help your special needs child will ultimately put the provider under more scrutiny.  ASDA, at the time of the incident, made a choice to keep our money and write letters to donors that publicly humiliated us during the process.  That decision resonates in these posts. 

As a business person myself, we are all defined by our actions.  ASDA had a chance to reconcile a bad situation and did not.  That is bad business.  As a consumer it is my moral responsibility to discuss the situation with others so that these situations do not affect the innocent.


I am a parent of an adult son with Aspergers syndrome and a grandmother of 2 children diagnosed under the spectrum.  I have been engaged in one form or another with autism for 22 years.

Five years ago I began breeding labradoodles.  If you are not aware, these dogs were developed in Australia to be an allergy friendly service dog.  I was immediately impressed with their intelligence but also how intuitive a dog could be to a human!  It's amazing!

Most of my dogs go to Holland.  In Holland I have been studying how many of my dogs are used with children with Autism.  It is the trend to now get a dog as a young puppy and to work with a trainer, but to train the dog in your home, having your autistic child highly involved in the training.  The miracles I have seen are awesome. 

Not only are we seeing excellent results, the cost is much less than I am hearing about on this forum and across the U.S.

Of course, this means the family must be committed to work!  The 9 week old puppy enters the home and needs basic training... which the autistic child is engaged in helping.  It's a committment, but it really works!

We will have dogs and training available in the fall of 2010.  This is private training in your home.  Please let me know if you have interest and would like more information.  We are an Oregon based breeding and training facility.

Again...if you read my earlier post, it is not always necessary to pay ANYTHING for a service dog.  We were not charged a single penny for my son's dog, other than our cost to drive to the place where we had to go through training and food and gas while we were there.  We were even provided with a place to stay.  You have to do your research and find what works best for you, but not all places will require payment.

I hope those of you looking for service dogs for your children see this message.  I know of a wonderful place to get a dog for your child.  My son is diagnosed as PDD/NOS and we got him a dog from Canine Companions for Independence a year ago. 

They train the dogs, and then you go through a two week class at one of their facilities to learn how to give the dog commands, correct them, take care of them and everything else you need to know.  When you get a dog from Canine Companions for a child, the adult is the one giving the commands and the dog is considered a skilled companion, but still has public access rights if you complete their training and testing.  They were one of the first, if not the first service dog organization affiliated with Assistance Dogs International, and are very skilled and professional in what they do. 

The only thing we were required to pay for during this entire process, was our trip to their facility and food while we were down there.  I don't know if all of their facilities have a place for people to stay, but the one we were at had dorm type rooms so we didn't pay for a hotel.  I don't know if anything has changed due to the economy, but we did not have to pay for the dog. 

All I can tell you is that our experience with Canine Companions for Independence has been amazing.  We had a wonderful time at our training, met amazing people, and have experienced wonderful changes in my son over the past year since being home.  Please look into that organization if you are looking for a service dog for your child.  Feel free to write me a message if you have any questions.


Big dogs are better, i think, my niece have a Yellow Labs, it really helped. The current trainer at ASDA is amazing. She has an extensive background in both dog training and autism. Our service dog, Comet, from ASDA has changed our lives. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions - this is an AMAZING organization these days.

the trainers may have changed but if Pris Taylor still runs the organization I would be very wary.  There are many options in the NW that are a 1/3 the price and raise dogs specifically for special needs kids (screened for temprament).