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ECAD, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Services, Animals, Education, Special Education, Student Services, Vocational & Technical Schools

Mission: Founded in 1995, Our mission is to educate and place Assistance Dogs to help people with disabilities gain independence and mobility.

Results: ECAD has placed over 200 dogs, in over 25 states, which is made possible by more than 750 teens that have participated in our ECADemy Program. There are over 60 dogs in training at one time and over 30 people waiting to receive a dog.

Target demographics: People with physical disabilities, children effected by Autism, wounded Veterans returning from war and the At Risk Youth trainers that educate our dogs.1.  At-Risk IndividualsThe agencies in which ECAD’s PALS programs operate, serve some of society’s most troubled children and their families in both residential and community settings, providing them with therapeutic care as well as support and skills necessary to succeed as adults:• 87% of the residents are referred through New York City’s child welfare, mental health, and juvenile justice systems, and come from the city’s most impoverished and violent neighborhoods.• 68% of the children admitted to these Residential Treatment Centers have suffered neglect.• 36% have been physically or sexually abused.• 43% have had prior psychiatric hospitalizations.• 39% have made suicidal gestures or attempts• 43% have engaged in delinquent behaviors prior to admission.Most of the children come from families with serious emotional or substance abuse problems: • 78% of the children have one or more parents who are substance abusers. • 45% of the children have a parent in prison, • 30% have a parent with serious psychiatric problems.• Approximately 66% of those served are African American, 27% are Latino, 5% are Euro-American and 2% are from other racial/ethnic backgrounds

Direct beneficiaries per year: ECAD averages 15 dogs placed per year with individuals, and rehabilitation facilities.

Geographic areas served: NATIONAL

Programs: Today ECAD's training program produces a wide variety of Assistance Dogs: Service Dogs assist individuals with physical disabilities by acting as their arms and legs. The dogs are trained to perform a variety of tasks (e.g., retrieve items, activate light switches, open and close doors, assist with balance) specific to the needs of each individual. Specialty Dogs to assist children with Autism spectrum disorders in a variety of areas including emotional bonding, socialization support, cognitive development, and physical safety. Skilled Companion Dogs are placed with individuals who need support but are too young or ill to handle a Service Dog. These dogs are well socialized, trained in basic obedience, and can be trained to perform more advanced tasks based on an individual’s needs. Facility Dogs are placed in nursing homes, hospitals, private practice settings, alternative schools, or anywhere their therapeutic support is needed. These dogs have been well socialized; obedience trained, and can be trained to work in patient therapy programs.

Community Stories

1 Story from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

ECAD's staff and volunteers are some of the most giving, caring people I've ever met. As both a board member and recipient of their services, I am especially aware of their hard work and dedication. The staff works together, not only to train the service dogs and the trainer/students, but also to help raise funds for the organization.
I have recieved two service dogs from ECAD. My first dog, Elli, worked from the day I brought her home in March, 2000, right up until a week before she died in September, 2011. She was literally a lifesaver, waking me when my father's ventilator alarm went off. At the time of my interview, I thought that would be the only thing I needed a service dog for. Was I wrong!! With Elli, my life became so much easier! She would pull my wheelchair for miles, help me with the grocery shopping, and perform a myriad of tasks that I would find difficult without her.
In March, 2013, my second service dog, McGrew, came home with me. With his help, I am able to work part time, even though I suffered another spinal cord injury. He pulls me to work and home every day, picks up everything I drop (and I drop a LOT of items) and loves to get things off the shelves in the supermarket for me. McGrew has become a special part of our community because of his loving personality and calmness. When our area was devastated by a tropical storm 6 months ago, ours was one of the few businesses that remained open. Lines were long and people were devastated by the loss of their homes. McGrew, like Elli before him, seemed to know who needed him most. He accepted lots of hugs during those trying times. Our "don't pet" policy went out the window with these dire circumstances, and he spent hours calming people. After each encounter, McGrew would climb onto my lap as if to say " I love you the most." Who but the most caring individuals like those at ECAD could raise and train dogs of this caliber.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

It was almost 10 years ago that ECAD paired me with Elli, my service dog. At the time I thought the only thing I would need a dog for would be to wake me up when my father's ventilator alarm went off. Because I have both Muscular Dystrophy and a spinal cord injury, I use a wheelchair or crutches to get around. At the time I applied for a dog, I felt I was totally independent - I just couldn't walk. Now I'm lost without Elli's help. Before I had Elli, I would have to go to the supermarket 3 or 4 times a week, because I couldn't many items while pushing the wheelchair. Elli was able to pull me through the supermarket while I piled my lap high with the groceries for the whole week! When we were finished, Elli would pull me to the car while carrying a bag of groceries in her mouth. She would also get things off the lower shelves for me. Her only drawback was that she absolutely refused to pick up store brand marshmallows, even though she never tasted one in her life - so we had to buy name brand. Elli came to Mass with me every weekend, and would help pass the collection plate. She would carry cold cuts in her mouth without ever trying to taste them. She was so well trained it was amazing! Two of ECAD's students spent 2 days teaching Elli to respond to my father's ventilator alarm. Because I had her, he was able to get his wish of dying at home surrounded by his family and friends. She saved his life twice! Elli also carried my briefcase into court when I was working. Many of us joke that she was better at plea bargaining than I was, and my clients should hire her and forget about me. Justices have told me that the courtroom was much more relaxed when Elli was there. When I suffered another injury about 2 1/2 years ago, Elli was by my side. She had to work harder at age 11 than she did when she was young. The harder she worked, the harder her tail wagged. Elli just retired. When I'm ready to get another service dog, I'll make sure to go to ECAD! I also became a volunteer for ECAD and have sat on the board of directors for several years. I wanted to do more, so I became a home handler. First, I had to go through training, of course, because it's very easy to spoil these lovable dogs. A home handler takes a puppy or young dog from Thursday evening through Monday morning. We keep practicing the commands with these pups, help socialize them, and work on the commands they need the most help with. Monday mornings, they're back at school where their student trainers teach them whatever they need to learn and continue their socialization. We get to watch them grow from chewing puppies to adolescent service dogs. Though we try hard not to, we bond with the dogs and miss them when they go out on a team. We're like proud parents when we receive updates on the dogs we've handled, and watching them go off into the world with their new handler is akin to watching your child graduate school and go off into the world. It's bittersweet, but such a rewarding sight.