At ECAD, we truly believe that the right Service Dog can improve a client’s quality of life. When it comes to training our Service Dogs, ECAD goes the extra mile to provide the best service possible.
While the requirement, across the board, is for dogs to receive 250 hours of training prior to certification, we train our dogs for a whopping 1,500 hours -- that’s six times more than the minimum. In addition, ECAD checks in with each patient/dog pair every week for the first six weeks and then annually for at least the first two years after placement. In addition, the patient can check in with ECAD as often as they want to. Though we maintain a high level of rigor, it hasn’t slowed us down. ECAD has placed over 300 Service Dogs to assist individuals with over 60 different types of disabilities.
ECAD is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), which shares our high standards in caring for patients and dogs. ECAD is one of 81 ADI-accredited programs in the U.S., and we are the only ADI-accredited member in the state of Connecticut. Because well-trained assistance dogs are crucial to a client’s safety, ADI standards ensure that dogs are cared for humanely, that clients are treated with respect and dignity, and that training is delivered in a professional manner. As part of the ADI accreditation process, an assessor spends several days at a training facility interviewing staff, clients, volunteers, and applicants. ADI’s standards apply to each part of the process -- from operating a program with professionalism and excellence, to training and caring for the assistance dogs, to providing a new client with necessary guidance and matching them with the right dog.
We’re proud of our accreditation for a reason. While non-accredited programs can provide excellent service, they can also face some issues. According to ADI, non-accredited institutions may claim to meet ADI’s standards, but these claims can’t be verified without accreditation. A 2017 study by Walther et al. found that non-accredited facilities tend to suffer high staff turnover due to financial and staffing struggles. Unlike accredited programs, non-accredited facilities have no obligation to be nonprofits. For this reason, it is more difficult to verify that a non-accredited facility is operating ethically. (Unethical practices can include overcharging for a Service Dog or placing dogs that aren’t suitable for their clients.) Accredited facilities place more dogs than non-accredited facilities overall, and nonprofit status helps keep costs low for clients.
In other words, high standards make us better at what we do in every way, helping us place better-trained dogs with more clients in need. Time and time again, we find that excellent service is worth every step it takes to get there. We invite you to get involved supporting this critical work!