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MD Veterans Service Animal Program

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs does not train service animals for placement with veterans living with disabilities.  The Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program provides grants to service animal programs who train service dogs and who provide equine therapy to veterans.  Read more below on the difference between guide, service, and support animals and to learn about the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program.

Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program and Fund

During the 2017 Maryland Legislative Session, Senate Bill 441 created the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program and Fund in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.  The bill was approved May 4, 2017 and took effect July 1, 2017.   See COMAR Regulations

In 2019, Senate Bill 105 altered the definition of nonprofit training entity for purposes of the program to include entities which provide equine therapy to eligible veterans.  The bill was approved by Governor Hogan and took effect June 1, 2019.

The Program established the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program Fund in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.


FY24 Grant Awards

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs awarded $170,000 in grants to eligible service animal and equine therapy programs.

IMPORTANT DATES:
● Interim Grant Report Due: July 15, 2024
● Program End Date: December 31, 2024

FY24 Grantee Forms:


FY23 MARYLAND VETERANS SERVICE ANIMAL PROGRAM GRANT AWARDS

Seven (7) Maryland-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that provide equine therapy and service and support dogs for Maryland veterans were selected this year to receive $31,000 in grant funding under the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program.  These organizations addressed the  central priority to improve mental health and overall well-being and reduce the risk of suicide in Maryland’s veteran population by offering increased opportunities for veterans to receive professionally trained service or support dogs or receive equine therapy services. Additional grant-funded priorities were the inclusion of outreach and education activities focused on increasing community awareness of veteran suicide prevention and military cultural competency, and expanding the field of equine therapy specialists. Each grantee also used a portion of their award for equine/canine care.

Lifeline Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation, Inc. (based in Montgomery County)
To support the services of a mental health and equine specialist to provide equine-assisted psychotherapy for veterans; provide additional EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning) professional training and certification for two (2) staff members and to support staffing to conduct outreach and education activities.

Promise Landing Farm, Inc. (based in Prince George’s County)
To support equine-assisted services to veterans with disabilities in southern Maryland; provide PATH International (Professionally Accredited Therapeutic Horsemanship) training and certification for three (3) staff members; provide in-person training for equine-assisted services providers on suicide prevention facilitated by a suicide prevention subject matter expert and instructor.

Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (based in Harford County)
To support the establishment of a Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center at the Maryland Health Care System at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Baltimore City; provide some additional support to the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center currently operating in Perry Point; provide education on veteran suicide prevention for staff, volunteers, and community members utilizing subject matter experts.

Warrior Canine Connection, Inc. (based in Montgomery County)
To establish a service dog training program at a Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services facility, utilizing the actual training of the dogs as a therapeutic intervention for incarcerated person veterans. Instead of supporting just one veteran who receives a trained service/support dog, the program supports recovery from possible mission-based trauma for each incarcerated person veteran selected for service/support training.

Maryland Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (based in Anne Arundel County)
To support therapeutic riding sessions for veterans; preparatory training courses for six (6) staff in order to obtain professional accreditation; outreach activities to promote Maryland Therapeutic Riding services for active/veteran military.

Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding Program, Inc. (based in Cecil County)
To support a Professionally Accredited Therapeutic Horsemanship International instructor to provide equine assisted therapy for veterans in Harford and Cecil counties; provide instruction, training, and membership for six (6) staff.

Wellspring of Life Farm, Inc. (based in Baltimore County)
To provide Professionally Accredited Therapeutic Horsemanship International certification for five (5) staff members; to provide specialized service for physically disabled veterans through acquisition of a horse driving cart with harness, and a pony driving cart with harness.


Donations
Donations to the Fund are accepted by check or online by credit card.  Please note the Fund is not a designated 501(c)3 organization.

Checks must be payable to the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program Fund and mailed to:
Dana Burl, Director
Outreach and Advocacy Program
Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs
16 Francis Street, Fourth Floor
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
**PLEASE NOTE ON THE CHECK IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS, IF NOT NOTED YOUR NAME WILL BE REFLECTED AS A DONOR ON THE MDVA WEBSITE**

Credit card donations may be made by going to:

Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program Fund Credit Card Donation Page

 

 

 

 


MDVA is required to place a list of donors on its website.  Only donors who gave permission to have their names posted are on this list.

In 2021, one donation was received for a total of $1000.00.
In 2020, one donation was received for a total of $50.00.
In 2019, three donations were made for a total of $95.00, no donors wished to have their names shared.
In 2018, five donations were made for a total of $535.00.
Brian and Lisa Smith donated $250.00.
Bob Farlow donated $25.00.

Questions related to the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program can be directed to:
Dana Burl, Outreach Director, MDVA
dana.burl@maryland.gov


Guide and Service Dog Information and Resources

What are guide dogs?

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, guide dogs are trained to lead the blind or vision impaired. The dog acts as a pilot to direct its owner in a straight line unless directed to turn, while avoiding obstacles in all directions.

What are service dogs?

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, a service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. For example, a service dog can help a blind person walk down the street or get dangerous things out of the way when someone is having a seizure.

Protecting someone, giving emotional support, or being a companion do not qualify a dog to be a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training. Usually the dog is trained to:

  • Do things that are different from natural dog behavior
  • Do things that the handler (dog owner) cannot do because of a disability
  • Learn to work with the new handler in ways that help manage the owner’s disability

Because the handler depends on the service dog’s help, service dogs are allowed to go to most public places the handler goes. This is the case even if it is somewhere pet dogs usually cannot go, like restaurants or on airplanes. But there are a few exceptions. For example, service dogs can be asked to leave if they are not behaving well.

To learn more visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation and Prosthetic website. 

 


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