A.C.T.S. gets Assistance Dogs International certification

Serving on the A.C.T.S. Committee for Assistance Dogs International certification were (from left) Virginia Cleary of Conway, Nan Ippolito of North Conway, Cathy Burke of Bartlett, Committee Chair Mary Russell of Madison and Administrator Robin Crocker. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONWAY — Assistance Canine Training Services was recently accredited by Assistance Dogs International.

ADI is an international coalition with members representing assistance dog programs from across the world. According to its website, ADI's purpose is “to improve the areas of selection, training, placement and utilization of assistance dogs.”

Accreditation by ADI is a peer-review process. It is a uniform method by which ADI voting member agencies can achieve compliance with the operational standards of excellence established by ADI for organizations that train and place assistance dogs.

Standards of compliance include every aspect of the program from general management of volunteers, training and placement of dogs, application and follow up procedures, general animal care and record keeping, and overall business practices, to emergency procedures, risk management and general documentation.

Partnering organizations undergo an official document review and on-site assessment conducted by highly skilled assessors. During the course of the on-site visit, assessors interview staff, volunteers, the Board of Directors, applicants and graduates. Assessors are also given access to a wide variety of agency documents and records, and they observe graduates and puppies in training during practice sessions.

At the end of February, A.C.T.S. received word that their pre-assessment paperwork was approved. By the end of August, A.C.T.S. had completed its on-site assessment with Grete Eide, an ADI evaluator and chief canine care officer for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs in Smithtown, N.Y.

Eide’s evaluation resulted in a positive recommendation to the ADI Accreditation Committee, reporting to the committee that “It is abundantly clear that the current volunteer leadership of ACTS is passionate, talented and dedicated to their mission of changing the lives of people with disabilities.”

Eide also noted, “I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of services that have been accomplished by an all-volunteer organization.”

Eide’s recommendation went to vote by the ADI Accreditation Committee and A.C.T.S. was unanimously accredited Oct. 9.

Compliance with the ADI standards results in full accreditation for a term of five years. Organizations like A.C.T.S. that are ADI accredited must go through the same review process every five years.

Robin Crocker, former board chair and acting administrator of A.C.T.S., said, “We are so excited to be a part of something that represents the gold standard in service dog training.”

She added, “Being an accredited ADI organization puts us in an elite group of organizations throughout the word. We have always worked hard to provide our services in a professional manner and acceptance in this group means we are in the company of some of the greatest service dog training organizations in the country and world. That certainly validates our efforts.”

A.C.T.S. is run by a team of dedicated volunteers. At the heart of those volunteers are the puppy raisers. Puppy raisers commit to up to two years with a puppy in training. The raisers are responsible for socialization of the puppies and also attend training classes and field trips regularly. No experience in dog training is necessary to volunteer. Only a love of dogs, a desire to help others and a desire to learn are required.

A.C.T.S. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that trains service dogs for people with disabilities and facility dogs for people who work where animal assisted therapy may be beneficial. For more information on A.C.T.S., go to assistancecanine.org.

ADI’s stated mission is “to establish and promote standards of excellence in all areas of assistance dog acquisition, training, and partnership, and to facilitate communication and learning among member organizations.”

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