Our Organization

GREAT! Volunteer trainers essentially raise a puppy to become a service dog. The puppy lives with you for two year. You’ll attend regular training classes together. It’s a big commitment, but is very rewarding. Find out more on this website, or call or text us at 608-213-1173 and we will walk you through the process and answer your questions.

No, volunteer trainers do not incur expenses other than anything special (like treats!) you’d like to provide for the dog. Food (?) and veterinary bills, etc., are covered by WAGS.

Yes. WAGS, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Therefore your contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

We’d love to and will do our best to accommodate your request.  For speaking events outside an approximately 25 mile radius of our office, we appreciate a donation to compensate for staff time and travel expenses.  To discuss arranging for a speaker, please contact us at  608-250-WAGS (9247) or send us an email.

Our Dogs

WAGS works exclusively with Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.

WAGS dogs are raised, socialized, and trained by Volunteer Trainers under the direct supervision and guidance of our Training Director.  We use the positive reinforcement  training approach to teach and shape the dogs skills and behaviors.

WAGS dogs are trained to help individuals who have limited physical mobility.  Some of the skills our dogs learn are: pushing accessible door buttons, tugging open a refrigerator door, flipping a light switch, or retrieving items and placing them in the individual’s hand or lap.

No, WAGS does not train dogs to do seizure or diabetic episode alerts.

No, WAGS does not currently train to assist children who have autism.

The cost for a WAGS service dog is $6,000.  The cost for a WAGS Home Helpmate dog is $4,000.  These fees help us cover the costs (approximately $12,000) incurred during the two years of raising and training a WAGS dog.  This includes, but is not limited to, veterinary care, dog food and treats, training materials and supplies, ongoing client training  and services, facility costs, training and administrative costs.

WAGS works with each client to help them raise the funds to pay for their service dog.  We also will set up a payment plan that makes it possible for the client to cover the cost of the dog in a comfortable and manageable way.

A WAGS service dog is partnered with an adult client who is the sole handler of the dog.  The service dog has skills appropriate to attend work or other public venues with their client handler.  A WAGS Home Helpmate Dog is partnered with children or individuals who need the skills of a service dog in their home, but don’t need access to public venues with their service dog, or are not able to assume responsibility for the dog in public on their own.

The timing depends on many variables (number of clients on the waiting list, number of dogs in training, and our emphasis on making sure we match the right dog to the individual.)  On average the wait time is one to two years.  This is consistent with the national average for service dog organizations.

WAGS provides service dogs for individuals who have limited physical mobility secondary to an injury or illness.  In order to be eligible for a WAGS service dog, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Have limited physical mobility secondary to an injury or illness
  • Live within about an 80 mile radius of Madison, Wisconsin
  • Be able to independently give commands to a dog
  • Be cognitively capable of participating in the placement training
  • Be able to meet the long-term financial responsibilities of owning a dog
  • Be able to meet the emotional and physical/exercise needs of a dog.

The average working life of a WAGS dog is eight years. Upon retirement, these dogs live out the rest of their lives as pets, often times with their partner, or with family or friends of the client.

WAGS is proud to have a very high rate of dogs that graduate as Service Dogs or Home Helpmate Dogs. From time to time we do have a dog that due to health or temperament is unable to be placed in one of the four WAGS dog roles. Those interested in adopting a non-graduate dog need to fill out a APPLICATION Non-Graduate, pass a home visit and pay the required adoption fee. A non-graduate is usually released between 1-2 years of age. They are spayed or neutered and are current on vaccinations.

Our Services

No, WAGS does not train personally-owned dogs, but we’re happy to provide you with more information about training resources for pets.


Yes, in the United States, there are both federal and state laws that mandate access for Service Dogs.

Public Accommodations

Section 36.302(c) of The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) requires public accommodations generally to modify policies, practices, and procedures to accommodate the use of service animals in places of public accommodation.

Place of public accommodation means a facility, operated by a private entity, whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following categories:

  • Places of lodging
  • Establishments serving food or drink
  • Places of exhibition or entertainment
  • Places of public gathering
  • Sales or rental establishments
  • Service establishments
  • Stations and facilities used for specified public transportation
  • Places of public display or collection
  • Places of recreation
  • Places of education
  • Social service center establishments
  • Places of exercise or recreation

Section 36.104 of the ADA defines a service animal as

“any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.”

According to Wisconsin State Statute 106.52:

“No person may refuse to permit entrance into, or use of, or otherwise deny the full and equal enjoyment of any public place of accommodation or amusement to a person with a disability or to a service animal trainer because the person with a disability or the trainer is accompanied by a service animal; charge a person with a disability or a service animal trainer a higher price than the regular rate, including a deposit or surcharge, for the full and equal enjoyment of any public place of accommodation or amusement because the person with a disability or the trainer is accompanied by a service animal; or directly or indirectly publish, circulate, display, or mail any written communication that the communicator knows is to the effect that entrance into, or use of, or the full and equal enjoyment of any of the facilities of the public place of accommodation or amusement will be denied to a person with a disability or a service animal trainer because the person with a disability or the trainer is accompanied by a service animal or that the patronage of a person with a disability or a service animal trainer is unwelcome, objectionable, or unacceptable because the person with a disability or the trainer is accompanied by a service animal.”

Airline Access and Housing

The first Federal legislation to directly address public access rights of people with disabilities who have service animals was the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986. The act amended the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to provide that prohibitions of discrimination against handicapped people apply to air carriers. Regulations clarify that air carriers must permit “dogs and other service animals used by handicapped people to accompany the people on a flight.” As a result of these 1986 stipulations regarding air transport, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act does not reference air carriers in its Title II and III transportation requirements.

Dog License Tax Exemptions in Wisconsin (Chapter 174.055: Exemptions of dogs for blind, deaf, and mobility impaired)

“Every dog specially trained to lead blind or deaf persons or to provide support for mobility-impaired persons is exempt from the dog license tax and every person owning such a dog shall receive annually a free dog license from the local collecting officer upon application.”