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Service dogs help Hoosiers unleash their own independence

Posted at 7:30 PM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 19:30:48-04

ZIONSVILLE — While many dogs earn our praise and affection for simply existing, some extra special four-legged friends are getting the entire month to recognize and celebrate the work they do for many in our community.

September is National Service Dog month, and WRTV recently visited the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), a nonprofit that specializes in training service dogs here in central Indiana. But the month-long observance also highlights their human companions.

ICAN vest

“It's very important to recognize those who are living with disabilities because oftentimes, we feel they may be overlooked in the community,” Samantha Thompson, ICAN communications manager, said. “But through the conduit of a service dog from the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, we are able to help these individuals unleash independence and find a new sense of self.”

That sense of self also extends to Indiana’s incarcerated population.

“The majority of our dog training is actually done by incarcerated individuals at three of our local prisons. We're actually changing lives on both ends of the leash,” Thompson said.

ICAN trainer

In addition to training service dogs, inmates at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Correctional Industrial Facility, and the Indiana Women’s Prison are also developing skills needed to re-enter society upon release.

Training for these service dogs is not easy or cheap. ICAN spends about 2 years and some $30 thousand dollars on a single service dog. But thanks to community support and donations, clients pay only around $3,000.

ICAN typically utilizes labrador retrievers and golden retrievers.

“For us, those are the best types of dogs in terms of size, temperament and health, which means they're going to be most reliable for our clients,” Thompson said.

Dog outside ICAN

ICAN typically trains these breeds to specialize in one of three areas of service: Mobility service dogs that help their companion with moving; facility service dogs that are used in group settings like nursing homes, hospitals, schools and courthouses; and ICAN also trains psychiatric service dogs to help veterans who are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Service dogs impact our clients because they are really helping them, unleash their independence,” Thompson said.

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