When and why was Summit Assistance Dogs founded?

Portland pup 3.jpeg

Summit was founded in March 2000 by Sue Meinzinger, a graduate of the Assistance Dog Institute in Santa Rosa, California, in response to the overwhelming need for more assistance dogs.

How is Summit Assistance Dogs funded?

The majority of our funding is from generous individual donors. We also receive funding from corporate donors, various organizations and foundation grants. Our graduates are vital in assisting Summit with fundraising, both with their personal donations and by helping us find new supporters. We receive no government funding.  CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

Is my donation tax deductible?

Summit is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.  Our Tax ID Number is 91-2048706.

What services does Summit provide?

Summit provides highly-skilled assistance dogs for people with disabilities that significantly affect their mobility.  We also make educational presentations for service clubs, churches and other community groups.

How many assistance dogs has Summit placed?

We have partnered 88 dogs with people living with disabilities since 2000.  Read more about our recent graduates.



How do I go about applying for a dog?

The first step is to read our Apply for a Dog pages thoroughly and become familiar with our process and our requirements.  Then you contact us, preferably by e-mail to, and provide a brief description of what kind of assistance dog you are interested in.  If we determine that we can meet your needs and that you are a good candidate for a service dog, we will send you an application packet to complete and submit to us.

What happens after I submit my application?

This is explained in detail on our Apply for a Dog pages.

How far away do you place dogs?

We are willing to discuss placement anywhere. However, graduating with a Summit dog requires many trips to our facility in northwestern Washington State at the recipient’s expense, so we normally find that people who live far from us are happier finding organizations closer to their homes.

How long is the wait for a dog?

This is a difficult question to answer, because there are many factors involved in making the right match of an applicant with a service dog.  Some people wait as long as two to five years; others may wait only six months.  Placements are not on a first-come, first-served basis, but rather on the appropriate match of skills and temperament.

Do I have to pay for my dog?

No, we do not charge our applicants for a dog.  We do, however, ask our applicants to contribute as they are able and to help with fund raising.   We also request that each qualified applicant submit an application for a scholarship to the Assistance Dog United Campaign.

If I get on the waiting list, am I guaranteed a dog?

No.  We do not offer any kind of guarantee of successful placement. There are too many variables involved to do so.

Is it okay to apply to more than one organization for a dog?

Yes.  In fact, we encourage it. We do ask, however, that if you know you are getting a dog from another organization, you let us know so we can take you off our waiting list.

Does Summit train all kinds of assistance dogs?

No.  Summit trains only mobility assistance dogs.  We do not train people’s own dogs.

Will Summit help me train my own dog?

No.  We only train dogs we select specifically for our program.

Will Summit certify my own dog?

No.  We only certify the dogs we select, train and place.



What breeds of dogs does Summit use?

We use mostly Labrador and Golden Retrievers or mixes thereof; however, we consider other breeds on a case-by-case basis.

What age of dog does Summit look for?

We accept dogs into our training program from seven weeks to approximately three years of age.

Does Summit use dogs from shelters, breed rescue groups and owners needing to rehome their pets?

Yes. Summit is dedicated to making every effort to use these dogs. To this end, we have developed a comprehensive evaluation process.

Does Summit produce its own litters?

Yes, Summit has a breeding program and is also a member of the Assistance Dogs International breeding cooperative. We collaborate with service dog programs around the USA and Canada to produce the healthy, confident puppies we need to best serve our clients.

G litter.jpg

Does Summit sell any of the puppies from its breeding program?

Yes. If we have a large litter or a puppy that is not suitable for assistance work, we will consider selling.

What methods does Summit use to train the dogs?

Summit dogs are trained using positive reinforcement (food, praise, play) to shape desired behaviors. We structure our training plans to meet the individual needs of each dog.

How long does it take to train a Summit assistance dog?


Dogs are typically in training for two years, first with their volunteer puppy raisers, then with Summit’s staff trainers for final training and placement.  Some of our dogs, including those taken from shelters, spend time in our Prison Partnership Training Program, where they receive training in basic obedience and skills.

How much does it cost to train a dog?

The average cost of acquiring, raising and training a service dog for about two years and providing lifetime follow-up care to our clients is more than $25,000.  This includes the cost of dogs we bring into the program, but who are not able to complete our training program for health or behavioral reasons.

What happens to the dogs that cannot complete Summit's training program?

Summit is totally committed to finding every dog the right “forever” home. Some of our career-changed dogs may go on to other careers such as law enforcement or search and rescue. Some are available for adoption to loving homes as pets. An adoption fee is charged according to the breed of dog and the level of training it has.