International Assistance Dog Week shines spotlight on dogs who are more than pets

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — International Assistance Dog Week is Aug. 1 through Aug. 7, honoring furry friends who make life a little easier for people with disabilities.

Paws Giving Independence, an all-volunteer organization based in Peoria, trains service dogs and facility dogs. It is accredited by Assistance Dog International (ADI), the leading authority in the assistance dog industry.

“They do make a difference and they do really enjoy working with their person. So not only does it enhance the life of the person but we place them in really loving homes,” said Donna Kosner, founder of Paws Giving Independence.

Service dogs are trained for someone who has a disability, Kosner said. The dogs are trained to pull doors open, retrieve things, and can help their person get up from a fall and go up the stairs.

Facility dogs are trained to interact with groups at schools and counseling centers, rather than being dedicated to a single person. Kosner said Peoria Public Schools has four facility dogs and Dunlap, Marquette Heights, and Tremont have three dogs.

“They’ll go to school every day with a teacher or counselor, and then they go home every night to be dogs,” she said.

Kosner said training takes between 18 months and two years and said a dog that is a good fit for the program has to have a good temperament, wants to work, and likes people.

“Not every dog that starts the program will make it to service dog. Sometimes they aren’t just really motivated and they are happier as family pets,” she said.

Kosner said the organization is looking for more volunteers.

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