Central Iowa-based non-profit Paws & Effect has been selected by the family of Devyn Pereira, 9, of suburban Rochester, N.Y., to assist in the selection, training, and validation of a replacement service dog. Devyn was born with Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in developmental delays, seizures, and autism. Devyn's current service dog allows her to walk unassisted by others; protects her from "eloping" or wandering away from the classroom; and alerts her teachers to pending seizures.
Since September 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has engaged in litigation against the Gates-Chili Central School District, Monroe County, N.Y. for denying Devyn's right to a service dog at school without hiring a handler other than Devyn herself. In August 2017, the schools' motion for summary judgement was dismissed, and the case continues in U.S. District Court.
According to court documents, the family has paid more than $25,000 for a dedicated adult dog handler since 2011. The adult handler spends about 15 minutes out of each school day working. Previously, teachers and school staff would tether or untether Devyn from her service dog, as needed. Devyn is attended by a dedicated, one-on-one teacher's aide, who is a school employee. The dog is trained to not require food, water, or bathroom breaks during the school day.
Nicole Shumate, executive director for Paws & Effect, said the organization will help identify a service dog to help replace Devyn's current one, a 110-pound Bouvier des Flandres named Hannah. The hypoallergenic breed was selected because of Devyn's asthma and allergies. The puppy will be identified and trained via the organization's ongoing training program relationship with Missouri Puppies for Parole.
"We are excited to become part of Devyn's team! Following Devyn's journey over several years, watching her blossom into a wonderful young lady, has been inspiring," says Shumate. "Paws & Effect intends to support the Pereira Family as they continue to navigate through the myriad of challenges in front of them, joining an effort that we feel very strongly about."
A 2009 graduate of the Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, Shumate herself was involved as plaintiff in a case regarding service dog access that reached the Iowa Supreme Court in 2014. The case of Shumate v. Drake University regarded the rights of a handler-trainer of a service-dog-in-training to access public buildings under state law.
In an announcement made earlier this month via social media, Devyn's mother Heather said, "When we first researched a service dog for Devyn, we only had a basic idea about the process or even the laws that applied. Now years later, we really appreciate how important it is to work with an agency that is forward thinking when it comes to service dog access and regulation of the industry. In many ways, Devyn has become the face of service dogs in schools, which has given us the opportunity to talk to a lot of different agencies. We have to be picky—Devyn’s first service dog exceeded our expectations and there is some pressure; the next pup has big shoes to fill."
Fund-raising toward Devyn's next service dog began with a Feb. 9 event in Rochester, N.Y. The family hopes to raise up to $15,000 toward the cost of acquiring, training, and equipping a replacement for the retiring Hannah.
A "Dog for Devyn" Facebook page is here.
Established in 2006 and based in Des Moines, Paws & Effect is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises, trains, and places service dogs with military veterans and children diagnosed with medical needs. The group also registers therapy animals through Pet Partners. Its Beaverdale neighborhood storefront also serves as a training center, as well as home base to Troop 232 of the Dog Scouts of America