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Injured veterans receive service dogs for free, thanks to the organization

Knoxville, Tenn. (WVLT) – Injured veterans can get trained assistance dogs through Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, an accredited nonprofit Assistance Dogs International.

The organization is so important in helping injured veterans and people with disabilities, said SMSD President Mike Kitchens.

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

Having an assistance dog can help people find another person in the event of a fall, pick up things from the ground, and find personal items, such as 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 this. “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 Monday at Smoky Mountain Service Dogs in Lenoir City.(Richard Mason)

According to his official website, he does not train dogs for the following:

  • PTSD unless the veteran has a SERVICE-RELATED physical disability that is suitable for assistance from a service dog, such as assisting with balance while walking, picking up fallen objects, etc
  • Alert or response to input.
  • Diabetic alert.
  • Guide dogs for sight problems.
  • General disabilities that are not related to service.
  • Dogs owned by individuals.

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