Critical Volunteer Shortage Threatens Supply of Life-Changing Service Dogs

Volunteer puppy raisers needed across the United States

An adult service dog in a blue service vest, a year old lab in a yellow puppy vest, and a black lab puppy in a yellow puppy vest all sit in a gardenA global shortage of volunteers to care for puppies and dogs in training could severely impact the lives of people with disabilities, according to Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Canine Companions, a founding member of ADI, is recruiting more volunteer puppy raisers to help serve the growing number of individuals with disabilities.

ADI warns that a surge in demand for all types of service dogs, combined with a fall-off in volunteers, is disrupting the training of life-changing service dogs. ADI member organizations – which last year had more than 28,000 active teams between them – say they face a critical shortage of trained dogs to support those who need them most. By the end of 2022, almost 9,000 clients were waiting for a task-trained dog, and millions more who could potentially benefit.

Canine Companions has placed over 7,600 teams since their founding in 1975 and currently has more than 2,700 clients working across the country. However, like other ADI member organizations, a shortage of volunteers has contributed to a list of 600 individuals waiting for placement.

“People with a range of disabilities are having to wait up to two years for a dog which could massively improve their quality of life,” says ADI Executive Director Chris Diefenthaler. “Some of our members say the shortage has reached a critical stage because demand for assistance dogs has never been higher. They are having to turn away desperate families and individuals because a shortage of volunteer puppy raisers and socializers means they can’t train assistance dogs fast enough to meet the need.”

To mark International Assistance Dog Week, which runs from August 7 to 11, ADI is launching a global #LifeChangers campaign aimed at attracting new volunteers. Anyone interested in helping Canine Companions as a volunteer can learn more by clicking here.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” says Canine Companions Director Puppy Program James Dern. “Without volunteer breeder caretakers and puppy raisers to give our future service dogs the best start possible, we can’t serve people with disabilities by providing the service dogs they need. Our volunteers are truly lifechanging.”

It’s not just the dogs that benefit – volunteer puppy raisers gain physically and mentally from their experience through improved companionship, exercise, wellbeing, and social life. There are a variety of volunteering roles to suit different lifestyles and time commitments, from a weekend to two years.

“We understand that people with busy lives feel they may not have the time, experience or capacity to volunteer, but the rewards are incredible,” adds Diefenthaler. “By volunteering with an ADI member, you’ll be supporting a world-class assistance dog training program. You get all the benefits of caring for a dog without the expense – and best of all, you’ll be changing someone’s life!”

About Canine Companions

Canine Companions is the first and largest provider of expertly trained service dogs in the country. Founded in 1975, Canine Companions developed the concept of service dogs to assist people with physical disabilities. The organization has six training centers in Northern California, Southern California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and New York, and clients in every state. Service dogs, and a lifetime of ongoing follow-up services, are provided entirely free of charge. Learn more at

About Assistance Dogs International

Assistance Dogs International is the world’s leading standards-setter and accreditation body for training assistance dogs. As a worldwide coalition of more than 200 non-profit member organizations spread across five continents, ADI is the world’s most diverse and inclusive assistance dog certification and standard-setting body. For more information visit*

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