Autism Service Dogs

Apply for a Dog

Our expertly trained autism service dogs offer safety and freedom to families. A BluePath service dog’s primary role is to provide safety for a child out in public. The dogs are trained to prevent a child from bolting, either into the street or away from parents in a crowded area. They also provide children with much needed companionship, increased social acknowledgment from peers, opportunities for independence and increased levels of confidence.

Our son’s autism service dog has been an incredible addition to our family. She has brought us an additional sense of safety and comfort and her impact on our lives goes way beyond anything we ever could have imagined. She has encouraged his language, taught him to overcome fears, and has been a faithful companion no matter the circumstance. Our organically happy, affectionate, kind, compassionate, life-loving little man has only blossomed with his dog by his side.

Families that apply for an autism service dog must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The child must be between the ages of 5 & 11 years old.
  • The child must have an autism diagnosis.
  • The child must live within a two-hour drive of our offices in Wappingers Falls, NY.
  • The child must need the dog for safety.
  • The child must be able to walk in indoor and outdoor locations without the use of a cart or a stroller.
  • Everyone in the home must be supportive of having a service dog and no one can be allergic to dogs. 
  • The family must understand that an autism service dog is a serious commitment requiring diligence and practice. Regular follow-up visits and annual recertification are required components of service dog placements.  
  • One or both parents must be able to travel to our location and stay in a hotel for five days of training with your new dog. During this period, you will be certified as a handler for a BluePath autism service dog.

Each BluePath dog comes with thousands of hours of training from dedicated volunteers and professional staff. Our cost to prepare these incredible dogs is upwards of $40,000, yet thanks to the ongoing generosity of our supporters, BluePath service dogs – and intensive, ongoing follow up support – are provided free of charge.  

Families will be required to purchase a specific list of equipment and supplies, and to cover the cost of room and board for the week of Parent Training. These expenses will total approximately $1,200.

Please review the Applicant FAQs below prior to beginning an application. 

Consider whether your family meets all the criteria and if you are able to commit to our extensive training process. 

If you still feel an autism service dog is right for you, we welcome you to complete our service dog application.

Applicant FAQs

How does a BluePath autism service dog work?

Autism service dogs assist parents by preventing bolting and wandering behaviors. Your child will wear a special belt with a tether that securely connects to his or her BluePath service dog. Your child will hold a padded handle on the service dog’s vest and the parent or caregiver will hold the dog’s leash. Your child must be comfortable wearing a belt and you and your caregivers must be comfortable with the child being tethered to the dog out in public.

What types of dogs does BluePath provide?

BluePath trains and places service dogs with families with children with autism. With the exception of a nominal equipment fee, BluePath dogs and lifetime follow-up support are provided free of charge. We work with dogs possessing very specific health and temperament traits; we do not train pets for work as service dogs. Visit our applicant page to learn whether a BluePath dog could be a good fit for your family. For information on other types of service dogs, we recommend visiting Assistance Dogs International

Why is there an age requirement of 5-11 for a first-time service dog application?

BluePath dogs are specifically trained to keep children safe through the crucial ‘anchor’ skill. The size ratio between the dog and child is carefully considered to ensure the dog can effectively prevent the child from dangerous bolting behaviors. 

Does a BluePath autism service dog have special rights in public places?

Yes. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, BluePath service dogs are permitted in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. In order to maintain certified service dog status, one parent must pass a yearly certification test with the dog. BluePath will contact you to set an appointment for the brief recertification test each year.

What should I expect after receiving a BluePath service dog?

Adding a BluePath service dog to your family is a major commitment. It will be time consuming, particularly in the first six months as you work to build the bond between the dog and your child. We will be there to support you through every step of the transition; we have an unwavering commitment to deliver personalized service that surpasses expectations. The benefits will be transformative for your family; these may include significant improvement in sleep patterns, the ability to travel in public, reduction of stress and elimination of bolting behaviors.

What is the application process?

If you meet the criteria, you can complete our application here. Please note that we are not able to process incomplete applications; it is your responsibility to obtain all of the required application materials and submit them to us. Once your completed application has been received and reviewed, the BluePath program staff will contact you within four weeks to schedule a virtual interview.

What happens at the interview?
During the virtual interview, we will ask questions about your child and how autism impacts your family life to assess readiness for a service dog. Following a successful virtual meeting, we will ask you to send videos of your child walking in indoor and outdoor locations. We will then schedule an interview in your home where we bring a service dog in training to see how your child interacts with the dog.

As part of the home interview, we will go for a walk with the service dog. Your child must be agreeable to walking with the dog and holding the handle on the dog’s vest in indoor and outdoor locations for a 30 minute period.

The application process often requires more than one home interview due to the possibility of changes in your child and your home environment while you are waiting to receive your dog.
When are we officially accepted into the program?

Once your home interview is completed, the BluePath staff will review your application and notify you if you have been accepted, deferred or declined. Dogs are individually matched to families to ensure successful outcomes; the time to train and match a dog to your child, family and environment can range from six months to two years. BluePath must be notified if there is a significant change to your family or environment during the waiting period; it is important to note that this may change your application status. 

Parent Training

You’ll be notified of a class date when we have the right dog ready for your family. One parent or caregiver will be required to spend five days with us in the Hopewell Junction area to learn the fundamental skills needed to work with your service dog. This is an important bonding time, as well as an opportunity to connect with others going through this special experience.

What are the expenses associated with a BluePath service dog?

Each BluePath dog comes with thousands of hours of training from dedicated volunteers and professional staff.  Our cost to prepare these incredible dogs is upwards of $40,000, yet thanks to the ongoing generosity of our supporters, BluePath service dogs – and intensive, ongoing follow up support – are provided free of charge. Families will be required to purchase a specific list of equipment and supplies, and to cover the cost of room and board for the week of Parent Training. These expenses will total $1,200. Ongoing expenses are aligned with the costs to care for a family pet; food, veterinary care and miscellaneous supplies would average $1,500 annually. It is expected that BluePath graduates will “pay it forward” through fundraising support and ambassadorship. 

Need some immediate elopement resources?

This resource list was provided by Rockland BOCES. 

Ready to Apply?

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