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New organization provides those in need with a service dog with no price tag included

Husband and wife, Eleanor and Tony, created South Dakota Service Dogs after experiencing the benefits of having one themselves, while also experiencing the struggle of making man’s best friend a reality.
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:12 AM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - According to the CDC, one in every four American adults is living with some type of disability. A service animal can help many of those challenges, but the price tag for a service dog can reach into the tens of thousands.

And now, a new organization is looking to reduce that price and make man’s best friend more accessible to those who truly need them.

Cutting the ribbon just weeks ago, South Dakota Service Dogs is a new organization, with one goal in mind.

“We are providing service dogs to veterans and first responders in the Black Hills area at no cost to them,” said South Dakota Service Dogs co-founders, Tony and Eleanor Russell. “We will cover all the costs of training, vet bills, and really truly, pairing the dog and the veteran together.”

Husband and wife, Eleanor and Tony, created South Dakota Service Dogs after experiencing the benefits of having one themselves, while also experiencing the struggle of making man’s best friend a reality.

“My husband was active duty air force and he was injured and during that process of evaluating his needs, we found that the waitlist for obtaining a service dog was over four years,’ said Eleanor. “And if you were lucky enough to be able to get that service dog, it ranged from $15,000 to $25,000 depending on your level of need.”

But one group decided to step in, the Rapid City Rush.

“As the recipient of Rush, the service dog, myself and my family have seen a drastic quality of life change in me and we just wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to us,” said Tony.

Now, Tony and Eleanor partnered with Anything is Pawsible, a business willing to board and train potential service dogs.

“I’ve seen the change that dogs can make in our lives and I’ve seen it change veterans’ lives,” said Holly Wannigman, a certified trainer and owner of Anything is Pawsible.

South Dakota Service Dogs isn’t discriminating, willing to take in and train both puppies and rescue dogs.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with rescue dogs and we not only save the dogs but the dogs save the people so it’s a win-win,” said Holly. “You get dogs out of the shelters and you get dogs into the hands of people. They’ll ultimately go through a temperament test and just make sure that they behave appropriately, if they don’t pass the testing to go on to be service dogs, then somebody will be getting a very well-trained dog to love.”

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