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Redmond family struggles to get service dog for 5-year-old son

'Without going into bankruptcy, there is no way to get a service animal for Jaeden'

REDMOND, Ore., (KTVZ) -- Getting a service animal for those with a medical disability can be difficult, and the lack of resources is causing the Redmond parents of a 5-year-old boy to exhaust all of their finances.

Jaeden Thomas loves dinosaurs and playing in his backyard. He was diagnosed around age 3 with autism and ADHD, as well as neurological issues that cause seizures.

Over the years, Jaeden has seen a multitude of behavioral specialists and speech therapists, but he still struggles with his cognitive development and person to person interactions.

The boy father, Randy Thomas said Wednesday, "In the last four months, we have an estimate, I'd say a dozen doctor's visits and five procedures. Quite honestly, it's crippling."

Jaeden is the youngest child of Randy and Ola Thomas. Because Jaeden is autistic, yet full of energy and still going through many developmental changes, they want to get him a service dog.

Ola, Jaeden's mother, said a service animal is different than an emotional support animal. She said the dog would be trained to recognize certain cries from Jaeden, as well as be able to take the pressure or roughness of a little boy and prevent him from bolting or running which can lead to him harming himself.

Randy Thomas said he quickly realized resources for people with medical disabilities were far and few in between. He said the search for a service animal for Jaeden has become a very costly rabbit hole.

"Without going into bankruptcy, there is no way to get a service animal for Jaeden -- there is just no way," he said.

Thomas said they've researched organizations, and have looked into the Central Oregon Disability Support Network resources. They applied for the Rising Stars Fund and was awarded $400 to help offset the cost of getting a service animal.

Dianna Hansen, executive director of CODSN, said a service animal can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000.

The difference in price of service animals is dependent on the customized training the animal will undergo, as many service animals are trained to support more than one need.

Hansen said it's very rare that service animals are covered by insurance providers. and Medicaid does not cover them, especially now, amid budget cuts.

The Thomas family has started a GoFundMe page to outsource funds to get Jaeden a service dog. It's called Jaeden's Dream and Protector.

The Thomases said they want their son to grow up as a happy, well-adjusted boy.

"That would be my goal," Randy Thomas said. "For him to grow up and play sports, and not be in special classes his whole life. Is a service animal the end all be all? No, its going to take a lot of work from me and mom. But ultimately, I think it would be a huge, soothing friend -- and 'keep him out of trouble' tool."

Bend / Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Pets
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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.



  1. Sad story. But, is the dog just something “they want”? That’s the only reason identified in the story. Has it been prescribed by a physician? That would make a huge difference. Is this just bad reporting or are these people hoping that someone will grant their mere wish?

    1. service animals can detect seizures and help their client. they don’t just want a dog. seriously – do some research on the benefits of true service animals. good lord – they save lives daily.

  2. The comments here astound me.
    This young boy has been diagnosed with Autism. ADHD often goes hand in hand with Autism. Some Drs will diagnose Autism only, some will recognize the ADHD as a separate diagnosis.
    Service dogs are trained to perform certain tasks or jobs. Going to the pound and just getting a dog will serve no purpose. They need a TRAINED service animal. In this young boy’s case the parents have already stated that the dog could be trained to prevent him from bolting. The dog could be trained to recognize his different cries and go get a caregiver that may be in a different area of the house. It was stated he has seizures and other neurological issues. The dog could be trained recognize the seizure before it occurs and again get help, or alert that the boy is about to have a seizure so that he can be moved to a safe surface.
    Someone asked if they have a prescription. You don’t get a prescription to get a service animal. A prescription helps if all you want us an emotional support animal. You show your prescription to your landlord and you cannot be denied having it in the home. Again, a service dog us a TEAINED animal with SOECUFIC tasks. A prescription doesn’t help with obtaining a service dog. Insurance will not pay for one, with or without a prescription.
    Do some research people

    1. Tethering a child who bolts to a dog, even one that is trained is dangerous. Also most programs require the treatment team and family to agree that a service dog is the best. Yes service dogs need a lot of training for a variety of things they encounter but not everyone with a disability can handle the things that come along with the service dogs.

  3. Another key to this young boy having a service animal is that he can begin to address social barriers. I really hope he’s able to get one. For him this is crucial.

  4. Not being a geek, I don’t watch the news looking for research projects. I watch the news to be informed. And when a story is lacking in information other than what some parents “want”, or some mother “said”, I ask if there is some “reason”.

  5. I know all too well of the costs behind training a service dog. BUT a you must learn how to handle a service and and in this case he is going to act around a dog, if the dog will be able to properly work to help him. A lot of parents of autistic children believe that a service dog can prevent them from bolting with the proper training, this is dangerous for both the child and dog in a variety of ways. This puts the child at risk for a lot if they do not get the right dog or go through the right program. Autism isn’t going to go away with any therapy or a service dog. So the dad is hoping for the dog to “fix” something that cannot be fixed and does not need to be. Also I know he is only 5 but can he learn to work with a service dog? Is he able to deal with everything that come with having them? Being asked questions and talking with more strangers because a dog is present?

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