Kristen and her service dog Asha.
Wherever Kristin Hartness is, whether flying across the country or serving as Executive Director of Canines for Disabled Kids, her service dog, Asha, is always by her side.
“Having a service dog changed my life and has given me back my confidence and allowed me to re-enter society,” says Kristin. “I went from not wanting to go anywhere or do anything – because I was falling multiple times a week – to traveling, working and socializing safely because of my service dog.”
Gaining a Sense of Independence & Freedom
A service dogs is a tool for a person with physical or psychological disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is especially important for children, because having a service dog allows them to be independent and rely less on adults. Kristin wants children to experience the freedom that she gained from having a service dog as early as possible, while they are still growing and developing.
Canines for Disabled Kids focuses on matching families with training programs. They also offer community education programs and scholarships to help cover the costs of receiving a service dog.
“There are more than 200 service dog training programs across the U.S., so it can be daunting for families to find the correct dog for their child – that’s where we come in,” explains Kristin. “Canines for Disabled Kids’ goal is to teach people what service dogs are and what they are not, what the laws are, and what options are available to families and their children.”
Finding the Right Servic Dog Match
When helping match families with the correct dog training program, Kristin learns about the family’s lifestyle, about the child’s disability and how the family would like the dog to help the child.
Kristin is also passionate about schools, businesses, and the community learning more about service dogs, because getting the proper education out there is critical.
“It is important that people know these are living tools, and they should be welcomed by the community,” said Kristin. “They are doing a very important job for the person they are with – allowing them to live their life as independently as possible.”