Dog Tags® Service Dogs For Veterans

Dog Tags® is a Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) initiative which honors wounded OIF/OEF veterans. Our dogs, raised in prison, are trained to perform almost 60 commands. Since we specialize in dogs for veterans with PTSD and TBI, we also teach our dogs special commands for wounded war veterans with these conditions.


The costs associated with getting the right dog and being trained to care for and work with that dog will be paid for by PBB. These include the costs of lodging and transportation for the veteran or soldier/sailor/airman to attend a fourteen-day training session in New York. As a boutique service dog school, PBB can donate a maximum of fifteen of these special dogs per year. Applicants must be out of the hospital for at least eight months in order to understand what it’s like to live outside of the hospital and whether or not a dog can be incorporated into their lives.

This application will help us understand more about you, your needs, your lifestyle, and therefore which type of dog, and which of our dogs in particular, might be the best fit.



Application Process

Please fill out the application below, and attach proof of current or past employment and a recent photo. We will notify you, via email, as soon as we receive your application. PBB staff will conduct an initial review to determine if one of our dogs is the right fit for you. If so, we will then schedule two separate interviews with you to be conducted by two different PBB instructors over the phone and over Zoom video conference. If you live close enough, we may ask to conduct one of the interviews in-person.

If we decide to proceed with your application, we will then send you links to forward to your health care provider and two people who are willing to fill out personal character reference forms (electronically) for you.

Within 2 to 4 weeks, we will contact your references and your health care provider. A decision about your application should be made within six weeks of receipt of your application. If you are selected, you will be placed in our next 14-day “team training.”

Thank you for your interest in getting a Puppies Behind Bars service dog!

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Dog Tags® Service Dogs for Those Who Serve Us Pre-Application

Being paired with a service dog is a life-changing experience and can be freeing and empowering. But it comes with myriad responsibilities and challenges. It involves ongoing hard work and commitment and can involve considerable frustration. Before you apply for a Dog Tags® service dog, we ask you to reflect carefully on the ways a dog will impact your life as you read through the following considerations.


How public are you about your disability? While some disabilities are apparent, others are not visible to the general public. The presence of a service dog will signal immediately that you have a disability. Some strangers will ask you about it, and others will look or stare. How will you react?

Americans, by and large, love dogs. This is a great thing and will mean that you and your service dog will be welcomed by many—even treated as a celebrity by some. But on the downside, you can count on being stopped in the street, in the office, in the lobby of apartment buildings—everywhere—with comments and questions about your dog. If you are comfortable with a lot of social interaction, this may be a plus. But if not, you should consider seriously how you would respond to this level of attention.

Be Realistic

What, specifically, do you imagine a service dog doing for you? How can the dog really help in terms of the way your disability affects your life? Think carefully about how realistic these goals are.

Exercising Your Dog Every Day

PBB requires that you provide at least one hour of off-leash outdoor exercise for your dog each day, regardless of inclement weather. How physically active are you? Do you have access to a dog park or another area where you can allow the dog to play? What are your thoughts about having to go outside on days you feel tired or depressed? PBB will take back a dog that is not well-exercised. We feel very strongly that our dogs must have time to run and play off-leash and that you must provide it. We are very serious about the emotional and physical health of our dogs. How do you feel that PBB will take back a dog that is not getting enough exercise?

Responsibilities to PBB

PBB staff will come to your home four months after you graduate with your dog, or sooner if we feel there is a need. How do you feel about having someone come to your home and watch you interact with your dog? For several years thereafter, you will be expected to meet with an instructor in order to re-certify you and your dog. This may mean you have to drive to the nearest big-city airport to meet an instructor so the instructor, after the first follow-up visit, does not have to rent a car and stay overnight in a hotel. How will you be able to accommodate this? Can you drive, or be driven, to your nearest big-city airport once a year to meet us?

We also require that you maintain routine contact with PBB. We will call you twice a year for routine check-ins. We may email you periodically. If we do not hear from you, we will call and call you until we do. PBB retains ownership of our service dogs for the life of the dog. How do you feel about the fact that PBB is going to be watching how you and the dog live and work together for the life of the dog?

Time Commitment

First of all, you'll start with an intensive fourteen-day training period as you learn to work effectively with the dog. This period can be nerve-racking and certainly fatiguing. You'll attend lectures, work one-on-one with prison inmates, take written exams, and you'll need to practice every day as you learn. In addition, every single day during "team training" we take all the dogs and clients to the woods and to a lake so, after hours of working and training each day, our dogs can be dogs. We figure that after working for you all day, it is their time to have you provide them with fun and play. But, we do this regardless of weather—snow, rain, disgustingly hot and humid—we're out there! How do you feel about this mandatory outdoors time?

Working Dog/Working Human

Our service dogs have received thousands of hours of training from dedicated professionals and puppy raisers. The dogs are very capable and have a wide range of skills—but these skills must be maintained with diligent practice. Are you willing to work every day with your dog during “team training”?

Once you and your dog are home, you must continue to work—every day for the rest of the dog's life. You'll spend 24 hours a day with the dog and devote much of that time to fine-tuning and building the working relationship. Do you have the time? Do you have the patience? You may want to consider putting off the decision to pursue a service dog if you plan to start a new job, get married, start college soon, or if you've recently taken on any overriding commitments.

Home Environment/ Community

A service dog will not only enter your life, but also the lives of your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Think about those you live with or come in contact with on a daily basis. Are they “dog people?” Will they welcome your greater independence or be threatened by it? Will it affect your relationship with them? Will they help the process of adapting to, and living with a service dog, or will they be a hindrance? After you've thought about this, talk to those in your home, family, and workplace to get their feedback. Then talk with them some more.

Now look at logistics. What kind of space do you live in? How and where will you provide exercise for a dog that will likely weigh between 60 and 75 pounds? What public places do you visit frequently? Do you ride public transportation? A service dog can help you in these environments, and you have a legal right to have a service animal with you at all times, but you can expect to be challenged about that right from time to time. How will you react? Are you willing to defend and demand that right?

Shedding, Drooling, Licking, Chewing

While dogs are not a significant disease vector to humans, they are indeed prone to drool, shed copiously, and to occasionally vomit or “have an accident” in the house. With proper grooming, diet, and exercise these problems can be kept to a minimum. But these are basic facts of dog companionship. The best-groomed dog will still leave traces of their hair on a favorite dress or suit. A valuable shoe or household object could be torn up or eaten. Use of “poop-bags” on city streets will need to become second nature. If you are particularly fastidious and uncomfortable with mess, a dog may not be the best partner for you.

Final Assessment

Weigh carefully the advantages provided by a service dog against the challenges, time commitment and potential problems a dog might bring into your life. Keep in mind that there are financial responsibilities connected with the dog as well. You will be responsible for your dog's food and veterinary care. PBB demands that you use the high-quality dog food we use, which can cost approximately $100 for a 25-pound bag. Even the healthiest dog can become sick or injured and you will be responsible for paying for its care. We estimate that normal vet visits for inoculations, toys, and food will cost you around $2,000.00 per year. You'll want to think carefully about whether or not you are able to take on that level of financial responsibility. The benefits from a service dog partnership can be spectacular—but only if you're the right person to maximize them.

Personal Information

* Please list each deployment, and years, separately. Please do not include any years in which you were a private contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan. You will be asked to upload a copy of your DD214 later on. We cannot start looking at your application without a copy of your DD214.

Medical Information

Lifestyle and Residence

* Use ctrl-click or cmd-click (Mac) to select multiple items.

If you rent, you will be required to submit a letter from your landlord verifying that you may have a service dog.

Dog Care

Your Needs

Please be as thorough and complete as possible when answering the following questions. PBB is here to help OIF/OEF veterans, not to pass judgement.

You may upload your image file with the following extensions: .jpg .jpeg, .png, .tiff, .gif, and .pdf. Please do not upload images embedded in document files, eg. Word, Powerpoint, etc.

You may upload your image file with the following extensions: .jpg .jpeg, .png, .tiff, .gif, and .pdf. Please do not upload images embedded in document files, eg. Word, Powerpoint, etc.

Dog Tags Agreement

Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) pays all costs associated with training the dog and matching the dog with a veteran. Puppies Behind Bars will pay for travel and lodging expenses for the veteran to travel to the two-week training where the veteran and dog are trained to work together. Please save and remit all receipts for rental car, gas and food. Thirty days after receiving the receipts, PBB will reimburse rental car fees, gas expenses and up to $15 per day per person for food expenses. This does not include incidentals such as checked baggage fees, food or beverages consumed on board flights, or cultural or entertainment expenses incurred during the two weeks of training with the dog.

If, at any time and for any reason, I find that it is impossible to keep the dog I have received from PBB, I will contact PBB and will return the dog to the organization. I will neither sell nor give the dog to anyone, including a family member. PBB will make all arrangements to pick up the dog and no questions will be asked. PBB feels that the dog's happiness and health are of prime importance and will take back any dog whose quality of life is not of the highest standards, which includes that the dog maintains a healthy weight (within 3 pounds of its weight at placement), receives proper veterinary care including monthly doses of Heartguard, Nextgard, and Frontline, one hour of off leash outdoor exercise each day, and lives in the house and not tied up outside or in a kennel. Accordingly, I agree to abide by all of PBB’s follow up and recertification policies and procedures. PBB will retain ownership of the dog for the life of the dog to ensure that you are working well with the dog and the above standards are met.
PBB reserves the right to remove the dog from its placement at any time if one or more of the following situations exists:

  1. The recipient is unable to properly care for the dog.
  2. The recipient becomes incarcerated or the recipient becomes hospitalized for an extensive period of time. It is up to the recipient to notify PBB of any incarceration or long-term treatment.
  3. There is evidence that the dog is being neglected or abused.
  4. The dog is no longer being used as a service dog by the recipient.
  5. The dog is left behind at home alone or in the care of a spouse or partner
  6. The recipient uses the service dog in a manner that violates the standards for service dogs established by PBB and Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

PBB will make site visits when I am home with my dog after approximately four months and will test me and my dog once a year thereafter. I may have to travel to the nearest large city for my annual visits. I agree to do such travel and agree that I will comply with all these visits.

Make a Donation

Puppies Behind Bars is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, tax I.D. #13-3969389, and donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law.

You may make a one-time donation in any amount you wish, or sign up for recurring gifts on a schedule that works for you.

For gifts in honor or in memory of someone:

If your donation is made in someone’s memory or honor, we will send a card to the designated recipient(s) acknowledging your generous donation on their behalf.

Please include the recipient’s mailing address on the online form. You can view an example of one of our cards here.

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PBB offers many ways for you support our mission, including by phone and mail, and with memorial and matching gifts.

Click here to find one that works for you!