Boy with autism learns he won’t get new service dog

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LAKE PEEKSKILL -

Cutbacks to a popular program for children with autism leaves a northern Westchester family fearful for the safety of their son and dozens of others.

Joe Rivera, of Lake Peekskill has a 15-year-old autistic son who used to bolt every time they walked out the front door. But he says all of that changed after they received a service dog, courtesy of the Heeling Autism Program at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

In a Turn to Tara exclusive, Rivera says his family was devastated when they got a letter stating the program was winding down and that his son’s dying dog would not be replaced.

Rivera says retiring the animals and not replacing them leaves up to 100 families in the lurch. "I'm upset how my son will be without Kevin…not having that security of having a service dog scares me to death," says Rivera.

The Heeling Autism Program at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind tells News 12, "Because Michael's current service dog is retiring, we would be happy to help the Rivera family work with a school that is accredited by Assistance Dogs International to find a dog that can address Michael's needs. We have also offered Michael a Guiding Eyes for the Blind release dog at no cost that would be able to offer him support as a companion."

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