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Service Dog Training Program to Close Due to Federal Red Tape

By Mallory Peebles, Crime and Law Enforcement, Natural Resources and Parks Reporter, Fill-in Anchor, mpeebles@ktuu.com
Published On: Jan 09 2014 06:59:39 PM AKST

Reporter Mallory Peebles/Photographer Rick Schleyer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

A local non-profit says federal red tape is forcing it to close.

Midnight Sun Service Dogs does hands-on training with dogs and their human handlers at its South Anchorage facility. Merchant says initially MSSD was helping anyone with special needs, but recently, she has begun only helping military men and women with PTSD or other disabilities.

Now MSSD says it needs $10,000 to pay bills and rent on its training facility in South Anchorage.

The problem is that even eager supporters won’t donate yet because the gifts are not yet tax deductible.

The Internal Revenue Service approves 501 (C) (3) applications for organizations seeking federal non-profit status. Once approved, donations can be tax deductible. 

"We're at the mercy of the IRS," says MSSD Founder April Merchant. "And that furlough that they had didn't help, it just set us further behind, and it's not just us, it's other organizations nationwide that are waiting."

C.W. Floyd, former special assistant for military and veterans affairs of Senator Mark Begich, says Merchant reached out to the senator’s office when he worked there. Floyd says he looked into the hold up.

"It was simply a matter of the stack versus where you are in that stack," says Floyd. "So, given time, she will get it. But it's a very critical piece of any nonprofit."

April says the delay has prevented a lot of people from giving as generously as they want to.

"I feel that by having to shut the doors I feel like I'm having to shut the doors on my clients," says Merchant. "I don't want to do that, but I just, I don't have the money to do this anymore."

Merchant says if the South Anchorage facility is closed, she will stop taking new clients and continue to work with her current clients wherever possible. She says if she does get approval for 501(C)(3) status, she will try and build up the organization again. 

Midnight Sun Service Dogs is recognized by the state of Alaska as a non-profit