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Can Do Canines hosts fundraiser for autistic kids in need of service dogs

All of the people who benefit from assistance dogs, children with autism present the most pressing need, according Can Do Canines' founder.

All of the people who benefit from assistance dogs, children with autism present the most pressing need, according Can Do Canines' founder.

Al Peters can't keep up with the demand. His waiting list sniffs 200 people.

Their challenges are varied. Some are physically disabled. Others can't see or hear. Some are kids with autism. All of them are waiting for a trained service dog to make life more navigable. 

Peters founded the charity Can Do Canines in 1987. Over the years the organization has raised, trained, and paired 500 assistance animals with people whose quality of life factor soars with a dog dedicated to helping them in their journey.

The recipients pay nothing for their new working companion. But that's not to say the dogs aren't expensive. Taking a puppy and training it into an assistance dog costs $25,000 per animal. 

"Ever since I started the organization, there's always more people being added to the wait list than trained dogs ready to be placed," says Peters. "This year, we'll graduate 51 service teams. The year before we graduated 46. But every year there's always more and more who need them."  

Kids with autism today pose the largest need, according to Peters. They're children who don't talk, can't socially or emotionally interact with other people, or who can be as old as eight and aren't yet potty trained.

This Saturday, Sept. 17 is the group's 22nd annual Can Do Woofaroo. The event at Can Do Canines' New Hope home will consist of a one-mile dog walk, assistance dog demonstrations, and tours of the training facility where canines learn to flip light switches and immediately lie down when a child with autism strays more than six feet away.

Capping off the event will be the Dog Video Festival, a 35-minute montage of clips showing dogs at their goofy, brilliant best.

"We're constantly in need of more money to raise, train, and place the dogs," Peters says. "The money for this event allows us the funds to do all that for two additional dogs."