Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Gerad and Debbie Claseman, the founders of Dog4Vets, to learn more about their organization and the good they’re doing for the community.
AALM: What compelled you to found Dogs4Vets?
DC: Gerad is a disabled Navy veteran who experienced the need for more than what the VA could offer veterans in regard to finding their new normal and being able to feel whole and experience life outside their home. I had vast experience in working with therapy dogs, so I gathered the tools and education necessary to help create American Service Animal Society in 2005. The idea was to help a few veterans every year with service dog (SD) training at no cost to them due to the high cost of typical training, as well as the 3-7 year wait for a fully trained SD. Due to the overwhelming demand for SD services and the popularity of the program, we found that we needed to expand the program and the way to do this was to create a 501 c 3 mission. Within15 years of operation, American Service Animal Society’s Dogs4Vets program has experienced many changes due to growth, experience and perfecting the uniqueness of the program.
AALM: Tell us a little bit about your team.
GC: Team Dogs4Vets is staffed with educated, compassionate trainers that want to give back to our military men and women. Most of our trainers are disable veterans or their family members who have taken their dog through our program. They’re able to experience the positive shifts in their lives first hand, and come back to join the team.
Most of our trainers are disabled veterans or family members of our veterans that have taken their own dog through our program. All our trainers must achieve a degree in animal behaviorism and enter into our dogs4vets program with their own dog prior to training with our veterans. Most of our trainers have a medical background and all of our trainers must be knowledgeable in disabilities.
AALM: How is the Dogs4Vets training program different from others?
DC: Our training program is designed around the uniqueness and needs of each veteran. The foundational skills part of the program is experienced by each student, but the task training is customized for the individual veteran’s needs and their dog’s capability to achieve goals. We offer program certification which is earned and retested yearly. We also offer lifetime training, social opportunities and celebrate the life of each veteran who enters through our door. We include their family in our program as well.