Wounded veterans receive service dogs for free, thanks to organization

Smoky Mountain Service Dogs is helping wounded veterans get a service dog at no cost.
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs is helping wounded veterans get a service dog at no cost.
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 7:38 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Wounded veterans can get trained service dogs through Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, an accredited Assistance Dogs International non-profit organization.

The organization is so important for helping wounded veterans and people with disabilities, Chairman at SMSD Mike Kitchens said.

“We select good dogs, we give them proper training and we put them in the right situation that increases our chances of success for that team, and that’s critical for us. We want successful placements,” Kitchens said.

Having a service dog can assist people with finding another person in case they fall, picking up items off the floor and finding personal items, like a cell phone.

The best dogs for training are Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers, according to Kitchens. However, raising and training service dogs can be expensive, costing an average of $25,000.

Some people will find ways around it. “Unfortunately, what a lot of people will do is go on the internet and buy a vest and put it on Fido and take Fido out as a service dog. What they don’t realize is the inherent liability of having a fraudulent service dog,” Kitchens said.

A golden retriever trains on Monday at Smoky Mountain Service Dogs in Lenoir City.
A golden retriever trains on Monday at Smoky Mountain Service Dogs in Lenoir City.(Richard Mason)

It does not train dogs for the following, according to its official website:

  • PTSD unless the veteran has a SERVICE-CONNECTED physical disability that is appropriate for service dog assistance such as balance assistance while walking, picking up dropped items, et cetera.
  • Seizure alert or response.
  • Diabetic alert.
  • Guide dogs for sight issues.
  • General disabilities that are not service connected.
  • Dogs owned by individuals.

However, Kitchens said if you are not a veteran but still need a service dog then you should contact Assistance Dogs International for assistance.