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Shelter to Service

Military Dog

The Erie Humane Society is proud to support the Veterans residing in the Erie community. We understand the many sacrifices these veterans have made for our country’s safety and the hardships they experience.

An estimated 20% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD and/or depression. When Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are factored into the equation, the percentage of veterans suffering from debilitating symptoms such as severe social anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and hyper vigilance, is much higher. This is where we want to help. The Erie Humane Society is proud to offer a grass roots initiative, the “Shelter to Service” program, by awarding a military veteran a highly trained service dog to provide support and companionship for their every-day life.

Service dogs are chosen for their solid temperaments, calm demeanor and ability to serve under pressure. Many are also highly intuitive and selected for their potential to bond so deeply they can alert their veteran to issues such as seizures, migraines or debilitating shifts in mood before the veteran even knows what’s happening.

Interested in our program and applying for a Service Dog?

Please click below to complete the eligibility application.

Theo: 2023 Service Dog in Training


Meet Theo! This handsome boy is the Erie Humane Society's 2023 Shelter to Service dog-in-training. At just 9 months old, Theo was surrendered to the Erie Humane Society because his owner could no longer afford to care for him. Our kennels manager and service dog trainer, Michelle, recognized Theo's friendly disposition and calm demeanor, and determined he could be a potential candidate for a trainee. After fostering Theo for a couple weeks, it was determined that Theo would be our next service dog-in-training.

Michelle and Theo got right to work learning important basic skills. Once he mastered those, they moved on to more advanced skills. Theo is very motivated to learn and is eager to please. He's a very intelligent boy and has been working through his training with flying colors. But now, Theo is ready to meet his veteran so that he can work on perfecting skills that will specifically help his veteran in everyday life.

Theo takes his job seriously and when he's suited up in his vest, he's ready to work. When he's not working, Theo is a social boy with a big, sweet personality. He absolutely loves all people and enjoys the company of other dogs. Theo enjoys daily walks, outdoor adventures, and attending agility training with Michelle.

If you are a veteran, or you know a veteran who could benefit from a service dog, like Theo, we encourage you to review the qualifications below and complete a Shelter to Service application.

Application Process

Applying for a service dog can be time consuming, but we are here to help you through the process. Fill out our initial needs assessment form below. Once we verify that you are eligible, we will send you a formal application.

There is no fee to apply for our service. Please note, sending in the full application does not mean the applicant is automatically approved; it MUST go before the Humane Society’s review team to be approved.

Following the application review process, the applicant will be notified within thirty days that their application was either accepted or denied. Once the application is tentatively approved, the time-frame, from start until actual receipt of a service dog can be anywhere from nine to twelve months.

Service Dog Fees

The cost to train a service dog can be up to $20,000. This includes home visits as well as public access testing and certification.

We work to match the “right dog” with the “right person” so they can be a team for life. The matching process begins when the candidate is notified of the application approval. Once a dog is adopted or donated that is suitable for the veteran, the dog will then be trained to meet the needs of its new partner.

Additional Information Required:

  • DD214 - Honorable Discharge
  • Must have completed over 5 years of active duty and have been in a combat zone
  • Valid PA State Driver's License
  • Must live within Erie County (800 square mile radius)

Chesty - Awarded in 2020

Bob and Chesty

In early 2020, Chesty was officially awarded to his veteran, Bob, a United States Marine Corps Veteran, at a veteran bowling event, since we were not able to hold our Rock & Rescue Charity Concert.

Chesty and his 10 siblings were the result of an accidental litter, and were surrendered to an Alabama shelter when they were 8 weeks old. The shelter was already overcrowded and immediate placement for Chesty and his siblings was critical. The Erie Humane Society committed to rescuing Chesty and his litter, and they made their way to Erie for the opportunity to find their own families.

Chesty was selected early on as a potential candidate for Shelter to Service by our trainer and our kennels manager, based on his calm temperament and well-rounded personality. Chesty was then placed into foster care with his puppy handlers where he began the socialization phase and basic obedience of his service training.

Chesty then spent nearly 2 years perfecting his skills, specifically to aid his veteran in mobility assistance with tasks that pose a challenge to him. Chesty is a very happy and active boy, but he also has a very calming and peaceful presence, and he takes his job very seriously. He loves to show his affection, and enjoys being in the company of the people around him. Chesty and Bob have built a remarkable bond together.

Scout - Awarded August 10, 2019

Photo Jun 26 11 30 00 AM

In September 2018, the Erie Humane Society rescued four dogs that were at risk of being euthanized from a shelter in Aiken County, South Carolina; one of which was expecting puppies.

On September 25th, 2018, Scout and his seven siblings were born. Scout was chosen by our Canine Behavior Specialist/Trainer, Sean Weese, based on temperament and personality.

Sean spent the next 10 months raising Scout, and training him on the various skills he would need to master to pass his Canine Good Citizen exam.

In the early summer of 2019, Scout was matched with his veteran, Barry. Barry participated in regular training sessions with Scout and Sean so that he and Scout could begin to form their bond as well as fine tune Scout's skills to meet Barry's needs.

Scout was proudly awarded to Barry officially on August 10th, 2019, at EHS's Rock & Rescue Charity Concert. Scout and Barry are a perfect match for each other, and we are so proud of Scout's accomplishments since going home. He successfully passed his AKC Canine Good Citizens exam and he and Barry have formed an incredible bond.