Our mission changes lives on both ends of the leash.
Our service dogs provide independence and confidence for children and adults with disabilities and offer purpose and a second chance for inmate handlers.
By training and placing service dogs, we:
Almost 40 million Americans have a disability that significantly affects their daily lives.
Many of these individuals struggle to find stability, purpose, and social acceptance. Both inmates and those with a disability can face unnecessary restrictions and encounter stereotypes. Incorporating a service dog into their lives can help these individuals change how others see them and find the true meaning of acceptance.
ICAN is making it possible for people to achieve their full self-determined potential.
We advocate for independence and opportunity by facilitating partnerships between people and dogs to unleash possibility.
- Integrity - We are honest and do what is right.
- Empathy - We embrace diversity and similarities.
- Quality - We are accountable for excellence in all we do.
Since 2002, our hearts have led us to support, encourage, and celebrate others.
By training and placing service dogs, ICAN helps individuals with disabilities experience life-changing accomplishments and unleash their ability.
Just as important to our cause is the work of our inmate handlers. We carefully screen and select individuals to train and care for our service dogs, which gives them the chance to find purpose and move beyond their mistakes. Our handlers also gain professional and life skills that help them find self-sustaining jobs once they return to the community.
We strive to further our mission of changing lives by:
Learn more about ICAN's history, accomplishments, and live changing advancements.
Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) began in December 2001 to serve Indiana residents who live with a disability. Our founder, Dr. Sally Irvin, knew that service dogs are catalysts for positive change — one dog can impact so many different people, and they remind us daily what unconditional love is all about. And from the beginning, we’ve accepted service dog applications regardless of a person’s age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origins, or disabilities.
We started our service dog training program at The Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, where incarcerated teens interacted with the puppies. Back then, ICAN actually had two As; we were the Indiana Canine Assistant and Adolescent Network (ICAAN). We originally focused on teenagers: at-risk youth, incarcerated adolescents, and those with disabilities.
Although teens could effectively teach young dogs, we realized their bigger need was to experience the unconditional love and healing a puppy could give. So, we became ICAN with one “A” to focus on adult inmates training service dogs, and children with disabilities receiving placement priority.
On Valentine’s Day in 2002, we delivered three puppies to the Rockville Correctional Facility. Eager inmate handlers awaited their new pupils: Casey and Bud, both Golden retrievers, and Nora, a petite Labrador. With a modest annual budget, a core group of 12 dedicated volunteers began to build our foundation! By the following year, ICAN expanded into two more correctional facilities, and we tripled our budget and number of dogs.
We placed our first service dogs: Bud with a child who had Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy, and Duke and Asha with school physical therapists focused on children with severe disabilities. Grant funding also began for ICAN in 2004, which allowed us to hire paid staff.
That same year, we saw a growing need for service dogs for children with autism. So, we embraced the challenge and developed a specialized training curriculum. Since then, 22 children with autism have partnered with a service dog, helping them connect with their family and friends.
We realized another need in 2008; people with type 1 diabetes were seeking a dog that could “help them help themselves.” When they were unaware of their dropping blood sugar levels, they became susceptible to falling down (and possible crisis).
We studied how dogs can sense the chemical change that occurs when blood sugar levels drop, and we began training ours to alert individuals with a nudge to the arm.
We placed our first diabetic alert dog to assist their owner in detecting blood sugar drops — and “help them help themselves.”
We celebrated 10 years of bringing hope to clients, inmates, and their families with our Decade of Dogs Celebration in November 2012.
We added three new handler positions and 13% more dogs to the program in 2019. 25 service dogs found new homes with grateful clients, and 51 furlough volunteers joined us to support and promote our mission. What’s more, ICAN at IU grew to 365 members — more than twice the number of students we started with.
Also in 2019, ICAN hosted the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) conference, welcoming 13 countries and 300 international professionals working in the service dog industry. And the City of Indianapolis recognized ICAN’s work in the community with Resolution 29.
We doubled our office space by moving from Speedway to Zionsville so we could expand our programming and better serve our volunteers.
Thanks to our community’s generous support, we’ve been able to place more than 213 service dogs with clients, and more than 300 inmate handlers have trained our dogs. We have almost 60 handlers and dogs-in-training at three correctional facilities, a small but mighty team of seven employees, and more than 200 volunteers.
We’re also honored to be the only service dog program based in Indiana that’s accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). We also renew our accreditation every five years and provide public access evaluations every year. This lets us continue making an impact on hundreds of lives — every single day.
You can help us
change the lives
of people with disabilities, inmates, and their families.