Allergy-alert dogs sniff out dangers

Posted 8/25/10

When Sherry Mers’ daughter Riley was five-months-old she was diagnosed with a life threatening peanut allergy. Like most parents who have children …

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Allergy-alert dogs sniff out dangers


When Sherry Mers’ daughter Riley was five-months-old she was diagnosed with a life threatening peanut allergy.

Like most parents who have children with such severe allergies Mers and her husband found themselves doing everything they could to protect their daughter from something that could take her life.

One day Mers said she was watching a television program about bomb-sniffing dogs.

“I thought if a dog can do that why can’t a dog detect peanuts and things and warn us of those dangers.”

Mers said she had worked with the blind when she was in college and was familiar with service dogs and soon she was researching different allergy-friendly dogs, scent-dog trainers and service-dog trainers.

After years of researching, Angel Service Dogs was born.

Angel Service Dogs provide allergy-alert dogs (sometimes called peanut dogs) to families and individuals who have life-threatening anaphylactic allergies. The dogs don’t just detect peanuts, either. They can also detect eggs, milk, wheat, soy and tree nuts.

The Monument based company is a non-profit organization and since it’s inception a year-and-a-half ago they have placed their service dogs with nine families. They will be placing five more dogs in October.

“We have placed dogs from Maine to Oregon,” Mers said.

An Angel Service Dog makes sure the environment is safe before kids go in. This can pertain to schools, churches, playgrounds, amusement parks and other public places. The dogs make it possible for kids with life-threatening allergies to live a somewhat normal life.

Because of her service dog Rock O’Riley is able to attend school part-time in contained classes.

Angel Service Dogs are allergy-friendly dogs such as Portuguese Water Dogs, Australian Labradoodles, German Shorthair Retrievers and occasionally Golden Retrievers and Labradors.

The dogs are carefully bred, selected and tested. They are even screened for health issues, temperament and characteristics to ensure they are the right service dog and companion for the particular family.

All dogs are trained by master scent trainers and master handlers in accordance with the American with Disabilities Act. All trainers have extensive backgrounds in training. The program was developed by animal behaviorists, allergists and master trainers.

Families receiving these dogs must go through a two-week training period. During this time they get to know the dog and learn dog CPR.

Mers said it takes about a year from the time individuals and families start the application process to when they actually receive the dog. During this time they are raising funds to get the dog.

The service dog costs approximately $20,000. The cost goes to cover such expenses as the cost and training of the dog, their two-week stay and travel arrangements.

“The money does not go to Angel Service Dogs,” Mers added.

Angel Service Dogs has been featured in USA Today, People Magazine, MSNBC, the Today Show, Fox News, Scholastic News, and more.

“This is the first time the parents have hope for this [anaphylactic allergies] situation,” Mers said.

Mers also added that the organization is currently looking for local people to become puppy raisers. They currently get their dogs from Oregon but would like to find people in the area that can provide a safe, healthy and caring environment for the dogs and teach them basic skills.

For more information about the organization, visit


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