Application Process

Has your child been advised or approved by a medical professional to apply for a service dog? Then you are at the right place! We have a very thorough process to determine if we can meet your needs with our highly acclaimed, individually trained service dogs. Please follow this process so we can best help you. We cannot reply to email, phone or social media inquiries without all this information. Please note that as part of the process, you will travel to MO or NJ for an in person evaluation; however there are many steps prior to that including discussions via zoom or phone. But first, we need to learn about the person who needs the service dog!

Step 1: Apply

Please review all the steps in the process, and if this sounds like a good fit, use the link below to give us the minimum information needed to determine if we can help you with a service dog. After our review, you may receive a full application packet via email. Please ensure that is an approved sender so you don’t miss it! Additionally, if you would like to get a head start on the packet, here is a link to the medical form.

Step 2: Full Packet

If you receive a full application packet via email, please complete it as soon as possible. We will use this additional information to determine if and when we would move forward with Step 3, Evaluation. The packet may be sent out days after applying , or it may take several months. The more thorough you are in providing information in Step 1, the quicker we can determine if we should move to Step 2.

Step 3: Evaluation

Once the full application packet is completed and it is determined that the applicant could benefit from a Merlin’s KIDS Service Dog, you will be set up for a phone call, zoom visit, and/or in person visit in NJ or MO.

During the evaluation phase, our team will determine whether or not your family is the right fit for our program, and if so, what type of dog is needed, what custom training will be involved, and several other considerations. 

Step 4 (if accepted): Extensive Training and Readiness Planning

With a full understanding of the SPECIFIC needs of the applicant, the process to select and train the right dog can be started. We have many dogs already in the program that have passed intense temperament testing and that are highly trained in many general commands, and have superb public access training, The determination to train for specific tasks for the applicant and their environment can now take place. The time this takes varies based on the needs, but will be communicated to you throughout the process.

Before we start dog selection, both parties will sign a Memorandum of Understanding, which includes your commitment to fundraise on the order of $17,000 for our nonprofit. We find that most serious applicants are able to fundraise this amount within a year, and this helps us to place more dogs with applicants. If you are unable to meet this goal, we will hold off dog selection and training until we receive a sponsor or grant to cover the extensive costs.

Step 5: Placement

Placement is not a one-day event! Our expert trainers will meet with you, train the handlers, train the school personnel if necessary, and do everything it takes to ensure a smooth transition and that pairing will be successful

Merlin's KIDS will continually follow up by doing in-home, phone, and video conference visits as needed. Should any problems or questions arise, please contact us at

During your first year, you are on a provisional period during which Merlin's KIDS has the right to remove the dog if we deem the dog is unsafe for the candidate or the family is not yet ready for a service dog.

If at any time, any issues arise where your family is no longer able to care for the dog, you must relinquish the dog back to Merlin's KIDS.

Step 6: Caring for your service dog

Merlin’s KIDS will provide you with a list of recommended food, treats, vitamins, veterinarians in your area, and other necessities.

Maintaining your dog, including walks, nutrition, veterinary care are your responsibilities once the dog is placed in your home.

“I was initially overwhelmed by the process and need to fundraise. I had a special needs child that was hard to take in public, and I didn’t have time to fundraise. But I knew this would be life changing. We found the Merlin’s KIDS team to be so welcoming and accommodating when we visited with our child. They value seeing the challenges, because that’s what they are there to help with! Although we were hesitant to ask for help, we knew we needed to. We held an online fundraiser for our child’s birthday, and the community support was overwhelming. “