paws4people foundation was founded by Kyria Henry in 1999 (then 12 years old!) with the purpose of using dogs as a means of helping people.
This nonprofit’s mission is to enhance the lives of those living with serious illnesses or disabilities by utilizing highly trained assistance dogs.
We currently have more than 300 highly trained Assistance Dogs providing support in areas such as mobility and psychiatric service, educational and rehabilitative assistance, and social therapy.
Together, these dogs have made more than 1,000,000 therapeutic contacts.
Presently, we specialize in training customized Assistance Dogs for two general groups: children and adolescents with physical, neurological, psychiatric, or emotional disabilities; and Veterans and active-duty Service Members with Chronic/Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma.
paws4people foundation has more than 200 volunteers and operates in 16 states, placing dogs with nationwide consideration.
Although most people today are aware of the benefits of service dogs for the blind or people with mobility impairments, there are many newer and unique applications with which people are still unfamiliar.
At paws4people foundation, our philosophy is that children and adolescents with disabilities can and should be considered clients and be taught how to utilize an Assistance Dog to mitigate the effects of their disability. In these instances, proper training and employment of an Assistance Dog may allow a child to independently perform tasks that are standard for his or her peers. Over time, this negates the necessity of over-dependence on adults and aids, thus allowing the child to grow and mature more independently. We believe this is the very essence of independence, and one of the most important roles of an Assistance Dog.
In addition to the paws4people program, our paws4vets program specializes in placing Psychiatric Service Dogs with Veterans and Active-Duty Service Members who are living with psychiatric or emotional difficulties as a result of PTSD, TBI, and/or MST.
Many recipients have “invisible disabilities” so that their use of an Assistance Dog and access to public venues is questioned more readily than a handler whose disability is visible. Therefore, we feel it is important for people to recognize and understand that these dogs, when employed correctly and within the confines of the law, are providing invaluable services to their users by assisting them in their recovery and return to their previous lifestyles. This is yet another example of priceless, well-deserved independence.
Kyria was raised with her father’s German Shepards, and successfully convinced her family to a ‘cross-over’ to the Golden Retriever breed, receiving her first puppy when she was 10 years old. Since this time, Kyria has been enveloped in the world of dog training, dabbling in disciplines such as advanced obedience, agility, rally, and scent work; but her true love and expertise is Assistance Dogs. Kyria founded paws4people foundation in 1999. During middle school, high school and college, Kyria worked with her certified Social Therapy and Educational Assistance Dogs in nursing homes, hospitals, and special education classrooms. Kyria graduated from West Virginia University with Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Religious Studies, and Speech Pathology and Audiology, with a specialization in Disability Studies. She then attended Bergin University of Canine Studies, earning a certification in Service Dog Education. While managing multiple Service Dog Training Programs, Kyria completed a Master’s Degree from Liberty University in Human Services- Marriage and Family Counseling, during which she assisted in the development of cutting-edge utilization of Psychiatric Service Dogs as adjunct therapeutic interventions within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy. Currently, Kyria is the Program Director and Professor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Assistance Dog Training Program, the first and only comprehensive Assistance Dog academic certificate program at a state university. Kyria also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chief Executive Officer of paws4people foundation, and most importantly dog mom to her Educational Assistance Dog, BRADIE LYNN, and Service Dog Ambassador and Demo Dog, WYATT.