Frequently Asked Questions

Please review the frequently asked questions below to help you get a better understanding of how service dogs are placed, what your costs as a recipient will be, what commands service dogs will be trained to listen for and other common questions.  If you don’t see an answer you are looking for, please do not hesitate to contact us for additional information or clarification.


What types of dogs does RFI raise and train for placement?

RFI will breed and train retrievers, with the specific traits needed for the duty of being an assistance dog. This is paramount in our business, since the time spent raising, training, and placing these dogs needs to be applied to a type of dog most likely to succeed. Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, are RFI’s preference to use for our assistance dogs. So many of the tasks required are a form of retrieving, and it only makes sense to use the dog’s natural breeding traits to make the perfect assistance dog.

How much does it cost to produce a fully trained RFI assistance dog?

RFI will only need, on average, around $23,500 – $25,000 in donations to produce each dog.


What can I do to help RFI place an assistance dog?

There are many ways people can help, from donation of goods, services, time or cash.  Please see our How To Help page for some starter ideas and please see our Sponsorship Levels page for larger cash donations.

Are my donations or cash or goods tax deductible?

Retrieving Freedom, Inc. (RFI) is listed as a 501(c)3 non profit corporation.  Your donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.  Our EIN is 45-3282513.  You can view information about RFI’s non profit status on the National Center for Charitable Statistics site.

How does a contributor decide on an amount to donate?

RFI will accept a donation of any amount, and feels that each donor will contribute within their means. Donors can view the Sponsorship Levels page for general guidelines on what their contribution will cover.

How do I become a donor home for a future RFI assistance dog?

Please visit the Donor Home Application page to submit the online application.  Thank you!

Does RFI accept dog donations?

Please visit the Donate A Dog page to submit the online application.  Thank you!

Application Process

How do I start the process of applying for a service dog?

Complete the RFI application in its entirety and ask your medical and personal references (if required) to complete their part of the application. Once the information is complete, send RFI the application and supporting documents along with your $40 non-refundable application fee.

What happens after I send my application into RFI?

Once your application for a service dog is complete (including the application form, and the medical reference form and personal reference form, if required), we will contact you to come to the office for an interview and/or we schedule an in-home evaluation. The results of those meetings will determine whether or not we will add your name to the list of possible service dog recipients. We ask your permission to videotape this interview so we can get a sense of your capabilities and living situation. The videotape also allows us to revisit your needs in the future as we evaluate possible canine matches.

How does RFI evaluate if someone is eligible to have a service dog placed with him/her?

The decision for a person, family, or facility to bring a service dog into their lives requires a serious and sustained commitment. RFI’s goal is to provide as many people as possible with healthy, safe service dogs, but we are also committed to making sure that RFI’s dogs are placed in safe, healthy environments and that their training is maintained after the dog leaves our care.

Recipient Costs

How much does it cost for me to receive a service dog from RFI?

RFI requires a non-refundable $40 application fee at the time you submit your application.

RFI also asks that all recipients help in the fundraising efforts of their new service dog. The fundraising goal of the new recipient is set at $5800.

Additional travel costs throughout the placement process could vary per recipient for the transportation to the Waverly, IA or Senatobia, MS facility (depending on which placement facility is closer). All hotels in transit to and from the facility, meals outside of training hours, and attendant care if needed are the responsibility of the recipient. Any additional costs associated with attending interviews, the phone calls and the mandatory 10 day orientation session are your responsibility and include transportation to the Waverly, IA or Senatobia, MS facility (depending on which placement facility is closer), hotels in transit to and from facility, meals outside of training hours, and attendant care, if needed.

Why does RFI ask the recipients to help raise funds?

Helping raise the $5,800 will allow the recipients to show RFI a degree of ownership in the acquisition of their new assistance dog. Raising the funds necessary to secure an assistance dog is not easy, yet it is in the raising of those funds that the true dedication, devotion and perseverance of the family and recipient are truly shown. Local community involvement and ties with the recipient will increase with the initiative to raise these funds.

Is there any additional funding assistance that is offered?

RFI will participate in the best of our abilities to help all of our recipients help raise the needed $5800 goal.

Dog Placement And After

How are dogs matched with recipients?

RFI will examine the applicant’s physical and mental needs thoroughly. The recipient, their physician(s), and possibly their treatment team will need to fill out numerous forms with detailed questions about not only their disabling condition(s), but their personality and lifestyle. RFI also will ask for detailed information about how the disability affects their everyday life, their living conditions and, their lifestyle. RFI must know these things to match perfectly a trained assistance dog to do the needed tasks plus the personality to match the recipient.

Where does placement and final training occur?

Placement of these RFI assistant dogs, after 2 years of raising and training, will take place in either Waverly, Iowa or Senatobia, Mississippi (whichever location is closest for the recipient).   RFI will place dogs in classes of three to four recipients at a time, and spend 10 days working with these recipients and their new dogs. RFI will attempt to schedule these classes with recipients that have similar needs. This will allow an even greater degree of perfection, since we can allow the dogs to pick their new owners based on a comfortable connection between dog and handler. Every dog will not fit every person, even if it can do all the required tasks; the dogs personality needs to match the recipient. RFI’s goal is for each veteran or child to feel that they are receiving the best match possible. Above and beyond this, RFI will provide an on-site lodging and training classroom to use during the placements of all RFI’s assistance dogs.

What happens after placement when my dog and I return home?

Regular updates and follow-up are required from each recipient. RFI retains ownership of the service dog you have been placed with for the first year of the partnership. Provided the partnership is working well at the end of one year’s time, RFI will transfer the dog’s ownership over to you.

How often are follow-ups performed?

Follow-ups will be performed as follows:

  • Verbal meetings 2 weeks, 2 months, and 6 months after original placement
  • Minimum of one continuing education class the same year of placement
  • Annually after the first year, each team will have a face-to-face follow-up
    • The team will need to re-certify for public access cards
    • Dogs must be kept in good health and behavior to certify for public access

This information will allow RFI to determine the time table needed to start a replacement dog for each original dog placed.

How often is training performed?

RFI will conduct training classes throughout the year to keep the placed dogs sharp and help with specific training issues the recipient may have. Follow-ups will be done to enhance the effectiveness of each team, and will include:

  • Ascertaining that the placement is still working
  • Making sure dogs are still doing original learned commands
  • Ensuring the dog is healthy *
  • Correction of any problems that may exist *
  • Beginning the process of teaching new tasks *

* These services may be at an additional charge to the recipient.

It is always our goal that you and your RFI dog have a long and productive working relationship as a team after Orientation. Should a need arise, we will be available to help you problem solve assistant dog related situations.

What happens if the dog doesn’t work in the first year and RFI repossess the dog?

This answer will depend on the reason that a particular dog does not match the recipient, or why the placement did not work. RFI’s goal is to make sure that they do everything possible to allow every recipient the best possible match with their assistance dog. In most situations a new match will be made, and the previous dog will be returned to RFI. However, if the match is due to abuse, negligence, or not participating in follow-ups; RFI may choose to return the dog without replacement.

Training Process and Goals

What types of traits are dogs bred for? 

RFI will breed dogs selected for the program for the following traits:

  • Solid bone structure for the support of weight bearing loads
  • Trainability
  • Dispositions that get along well with other dogs, love people, and are accretive enough to complete the complex tasks that are required to be an assistance dog
  • These dogs need to be the perfect combination of confidence, calmness, and assertiveness

What is the training process like?

Please see the Training Process page for more details on the training program and goals.

What specific training do dogs get?

Once a candidate has been chosen, they are informed of what is involved with obtaining an assistance dog, and how much their life will change; both in the work place and at home. RFI will provide support to each recipient as they begin a new journey in their lives together. The last six months of training for the dog puts these “finished” RFI dogs heads and tails above the competition.

For additional details on specific training, please see the Training Process page.