We provide highly trained, customized, and insured Assistance Dogs to people with disabilities. We also provide Facility Dogs who are trained, certified, placed, and insured with a specific individual to use within his/her profession and/or volunteer activities to provide educational instruction or therapeutic interventions, medical or environmental aid, methodologies to students with “special needs,” or support to individuals with physical, neurological, psychological, or other medical related disabilities. We work to exceed industry training and utilization standards for all of our Assistance and Facility Dogs, and to increase the public’s knowledge about the important roles these Dogs serve within society.
I was one of those kids that had to do some arm-twisting to get my first puppy, and I’m an only child, so my parents really followed through with assigning me the training and care-taking responsibilities. When I was 12, I took my dog to a local nursing home and I saw how he made the people there so happy. I could appreciate that he was lighting up their lives in a way that was different than what any person could do.
paws4people is headquartered in Wilmington, NC.
The average cost of a fully trained Assistance Dog or Facility Dog is $61,000. Each Dog is provided to the Direct Client or Direct Handler at NO COST. As a result, paws4people must raise funds from various sources. One of these is the Pay-It-Forward campaign, in which the Direct Client or Direct Handler voluntarily engages in education and awareness-building efforts on behalf of the organization. That is in recognition that the efforts of previous Direct Clients and Direct Handlers made it possible for the current Dogs to be trained, so each group pays it forward to the next group of Direct Clients and Direct Handlers by raising awareness and helping the organization to continue to provide more Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs for more people. Direct Clients and Direct Handlers are not required to fundraise. Instead, they work with their Advocates to create a plan that works for each of them, their unique skills and resources, and truly accomplishes the goal of becoming part of something bigger than themselves.
You can check out our job opportunities page for any current listings here.
Training the Client or Handler to use the Dog is the hardest part. The Dogs are pretty predictable.
I went to college in West Virginia where I was introduced to staff of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They asked me if I could start a program where inmates would train the Dogs within the prison. I realized it would greatly increase the number of Dogs we could train. We no longer train Dogs in federal prisons. Instead, we have a training program in five West Virginia state prisons. That’s where the Dogs are trained from puppyhood, and then they come to us for final training.
paws4people does not have the capacity to assist individuals with the training needs for their privately owned dogs. Trainer referrals are available upon request.
Therapy dogs are privately owned pets who provide affection and comfort to various members of the public, typically during short visits to hospitals, assisted living centers, nursing homes, and schools. Therapy dog owners volunteer their time to visit with their dogs in the community.
A therapy dog has no special rights of public access. They may not enter businesses with “no pets” policies.
In 2017, paws4people began a relationship with Pet Partners, the leader in safe and effective therapy animal visitation. If you are interested in becoming a therapy dog handler registered by the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, please visit their website here.
The term “seizure dog” can mean many things, and is often misrepresented.
paws4people does not train dogs to pre-alert to epileptic seizures. We do train Assistance Dogs to respond to epileptic seizures by doing any number of tasks needed by that Client; for example alerting a parent, bringing the phone, opening the garage door, etc.
It is paws4people’s philosophy that Assistance Dogs ARE able to pre-alert to epileptic seizures. In fact, many of our Dogs perform this skill reliably. HOWEVER, it is not possible to “train” Assistance Dogs to do this, because modern medicine cannot yet identify the stimulus (hormone excretion, neurological change, etc.) that consistently precedes this type of seizure activity. Without the presence of a known and proven stimulus by which to train an Assistance Dog, actual training cannot occur. This is why, in order to maintain the highest level of professional honesty and trust with our Clients, we do not profess to train epileptic seizure alert skills – only response skills.
Due to our origins of utilizing Facility Dogs as therapeutic intervention tools within special education classrooms, paws4people Assistance Dogs are placed with children with developmental disabilities, including autism.
We strongly believe that with proper use, an Assistance Dog or Facility Dog the following is achievable:
These benefits can be realized through placement of Assistance Dog with an individual client; as well as through placement of Facility Dogs with education and therapy professionals who utilize Facility Dogs in their workplace. The amazing benefits of Facility Dogs within the educational setting as applied to students with Autism can be seen in our groundbreaking relationship with The Lionheart School and the school’s Canine Assisted Education Dog, LANGLEY.
There are ways in which paws4people does not facilitate or certify the use of Assistance Dogs for children, specifically children with Autism. Due to our philosophy, training protocols, and focus on safety and success of our Assistance Dog teams, paws4people will not train, certify, or insure any Assistance Dog to be tether trained, or as a personal tracking/search and rescue dog.
Our program does not utilize the “puppy raiser” model as some others do. Instead, our dogs’ training takes place in in-house training programming. If you have a dog training background and are located near one of our training locations and would like to inquire about volunteering your time, please use the Contact Us page.
We believe in allowing each Dog to choose his/her job. Our philosophy is that you can decide when your child is five that you are going to make it possible for them to go to college; but, you can’t decide when your child is five that they are going to be a brain surgeon. That is what we do with our Dogs – we send them to college, and we let them choose their majors. Likewise, we let each Dog tell us for whom he/she wants to work.
A Bump is the process of a Dog choosing his/her Client or Handler. Bumps traditionally take place at our training locations, almost always in the correctional institution where the Dog is being trained. This is done so that the Potential Client is the only “variable” in the Dogs’ perception and environment during the Bump. Dogs who are identified as having the potential to fulfill the particular Client’s needs are considered for the Bump. During a Bump, Dogs are introduced to the Potential Client and family in turn. paws4people staff and trainers observe for bonding behaviors. Over the course of the Bump, a strong bond is almost always identified. Once this relationship is confirmed in the eyes of the Client and staff, the Dog is matched with that Client. The rest of the Dog’s training is spent customizing its skills for the needs of that particular Client, and, assuming that all graduation requirements are met during the duration of the Dog’s training, graduation is planned and a successful team is created!
paws4people does not operate with a waiting list. We do not believe it best to put someone’s goals of assistance and independence on “hold” for years, so we opt to use a rolling application method. Upon completing and submitting an initial application, the applicant is notified within 6-8 weeks if they have made it past phase 1. If so, they will then receive a long application and once again be notified by our application committee if they are accepted into the program. Applicants who are not selected are welcome to reapply in the future.
No, at least not until the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog is retired. We do this for several reasons:
1) It “encourages” you, the Client or Handler, to use and maintain the physical and medical condition of the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog;
2) It protects the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog (we have had Clients and Handlers who do not continue to use the Dog as trained), and we can therefore act quickly to regain possession the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog;
3) It enables the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog to be insured under our general liability insurance policy;
4) It enables the required annual re-certification of the ADA public access of the Client and the Assistance Dog; and
5) If a Client or Handler, uses the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog for the purposes for which it was placed with the Client or Handler, cares for the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog, and loves the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog, then the placement can continue for the Dog’s career. If on the other hand, a Client or Handler discontinues to utilize the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog for the purposes intended, mistreats the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog, thereby proving that he/she does not love and value the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog, then the placement is terminated and the Dog is returned to paws4people.
Each Assistance Dog is trained and customize to a Client’s disability(ies). We place Assistance Dogs with Veterans, Service Members, and their dependents. We also specialize in children under the age of 14 who have physical and neurological disabilities. Our Facility Dogs are used in professional environments and during volunteer activities to provide educational instruction or therapeutic interventions, medical or environmental aid, methodologies to students with “special needs,” or support to individuals with physical, neurological, psychological, or other medical related disabilities.
There is no cost associated with receiving a paws4people Assistance Dog or Facility Dog. Each Direct Client or Direct Handler agrees to participate in a Pay-It-Forward Campaign to educate and raise awareness in his/her community about the role of his/her Assistance Dog or Facility Dog in his/her life. The Direct Client or Direct Handler may choose, but is not required, to hold awareness and/or fundraising events or solicit donations to offset the cost to paws4people for training the Dog. No minimum donation level is required, and donation status does not affect graduation date of the Dog. We do not believe in charging our Direct Clients or Direct Handlers for placement of Dogs, but do believe in the “sweat equity” model, which is achieved through education and public awareness. After placement, Clients and Handlers are financially responsible for the care and well-being of their Dogs (veterinary care, training equipment, food, creature comforts, etc.).
Please see our Pay-It-Forward section below for more information.
Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs are acquired from the paws4people Breeding Program. A custom blood-line breeding program specifically developed to produce Dogs with the personality, temperament, and disposition suitable for Assistance Dog and Facility Dog work, a specially chosen breeder (either via donation or purchase) whose blood-lines and pedigrees have been carefully researched to produce Dogs with the required personality, temperament, disposition, and confirmation suitable for Assistance Dog and Facility Dog work, or, the Shelter/Rescue Program. To find out about the great breeders with which we work, please see our breeding program page.
When we seek Dogs from our relationships with breeders as well as choose the Dogs from our Breeding Program, we use carefully selected lines of Golden and Labrador Retrievers. These breeds respond best to our training philosophies and tactics and, over the past decade, have had the highest graduation rates in our programming as Assistance and Facility Dogs. The neotenized nature of these breeds means that even at maturity, they function as “toddlers” in temperament, fulfilling a parent-child relationship with their Client. For the type of jobs we are asking Dogs to do, this parent-child relationship is preferred over a master-dog relationship common in many of the higher-arousal working dog breeds. Of course, if you can’t tell yet, we are very outside-the-box thinkers, and there are exceptions to every rule. Throughout our programs, and especially within the shelter/rescue components of our programs, you will see various types of this-and-that breeds. Dogs owned by our Indirect Client can range in breed from Chihuahuas to Mastiffs! So, although we are not exclusive to Labs and Goldens, they do make up a majority of the Dogs wearing paws4people vests!
Dogs who are unable to meet our stringent criteria for Assistance Dog or Facility Dog careers can be placed as Emotional Support Dogs with anyone who needs comfort and emotional support in their homes, such as senior citizens, families, or paws4people volunteers.
Puppies who are born in our Breeding Program and begin training literally the day of birth have a 99.9% graduation rate as Assistance Dog or Facility Dog. Dogs who are obtained from selected breeders and enter the training programs at 7 to 12 weeks of age have above an 85% graduation rate as Assistance Dog or Facility Dog.
Dogs who are obtained from shelters or rescue groups to enter our training programs have above a 60% graduation rate as Assistance or Facility Dog.
All of Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs are covered by paws4people’s general liability insurance policy when acting within the scope of their placement and certification activities with Clients and Handlers. This means that Educational Assistance Facility Dogs and their Handlers are under paws4people’s general liability insurance policy when working at a school; Rehabilitative Facility Dogs and their Handlers are under paws4people’s general liability insurance when working with patients; and Assistance Dogs and their Clients are under paws4people’s general liability insurance at all times when they are working within their Public Access Rights under the ADA. For these reasons, paws4people maintains ownership of Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs for their careers. That allows us to require annual re-certification of Public Access Rights as well as monitor each Assistance Dog’s or Facility Dog’s care, health, weight, exercise, training refreshers, and other contractual obligations are being maintained by the Client or Handler. Due to this career monitoring and follow-up, paws4people is able to assist the Client or Handler in deciding when a Dog should retire from service, as that decision is a very difficult when left to the client/handler alone. Should the Dog’s well-being be compromised at any time, paws4people can and will repossess custody immediately. paws4people reserves the right to repossess custody of a Dog at any time, for any reason.
Due to our high standards of follow-up training and care for the career of each Dog, we will only place Dogs within the geographic areas in which our trainers can serve.
This is always changing and can be seen at here
To read about Assistance Dogs in the Community, click this link.
Dogs that are trained to perform a minimum of three (3) tasks to mitigate the effects of an individual’s physical, neurological, psychological, or other medical related disability(ies). The Assistance Dog provides help in conducting everyday life skills, thus enabling the Client to perform more independently than he/she otherwise would without his/her Assistance Dog.
Dogs that are trained, certified and placed with a specific individual who will use the Facility Dog within his/her profession and/or volunteer activities to provide educational instruction or therapeutic interventions, medical or environmental aid, methodologies to students with “special needs,” or support to individuals with a physical, neurological, psychological, or other medical related disability or disabilities.
Emotional Support Dogs:
Dogs that are specially trained to provide comfort to their Handlers within their homes and other pet-friendly environments. Emotional Support Dogs do not have public access rights under the ADA, and as such, are not insured under paws4people’s general liability insurance policy.
Please visit our application page and click on the “Indirect Client” button towards the top for more information on this topic.
People with privately owned and trained dogs can, have their dog evaluated to become a member of our Operational Teams. These teams consist of privately owned dogs who meet and exceed our evaluations to become Facility Dogs and visit schools, nursing homes, hospice facilities, etc. If you would like to participate with these visiting Operations Teams and reside in the Charlotte, NC, or Wilmington, NC areas, please contact us and you will be put in touch with the Chapter Director in your area.
NOTE: Being part of an Operational Team does NOT grant Facility Dog certification or Assistance Dog certification or accompanying Public Access Rights under the ADA.
Under some circumstances, on very rare occasions and on a case-by-case basis (at the determination of the Executive Director, paws4people foundation), dogs which have received formal training through non-paws4people foundation training programs may be evaluated and granted certain paws4people foundation certifications; up to and including Facility Dog or Assistance Dog certifications.
Please visit our application page and click on the “Facility Client” and “Indirect Client” buttons towards the top to learn more information on this topic.
To find out the legal definition and rights granted to Service Dogs, please reference this document.
Yes, many of our Clients and Handlers require a Dog to perform tasks requiring multiple certifications. For instance, a Mobility Assistance Dog may also perform Seizure Response tasks. Or, a Balance Assistance Dog may attend school with his/her Client, so the Assistance Dog would also be certified as an Educational Assistance Dog.
The Pay-It-Forward (PIF) is a separate and distinct process whereby each Direct Client and Direct Handler voluntarily engages in education, awareness raising, fundraising, and/or other efforts on behalf of the organization, which help the organization to continue to raise, train, and place more Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs with more people.
Direct Clients and Direct Handlers are asked as part of the application process to acknowledge their willingness to conduct a PIF campaign. Direct Clients and Direct Handlers voluntarily undertake PIFs, without any expectation of compensation, payment, and/or reimbursement by paws4people and/or its sponsors, donors, and vendors.
Since we placed our first Assistance Dogs, we have asked Direct Clients to Pay-It-Forward. We were able to raise, train, and place your Dog, in large part, thanks to the efforts of paws4people Direct Clients, Direct Handlers, and volunteers who came before you. Now, it is your turn to Pay-It-Forward.
Through participation in the PIF, each Direct Client and Direct Handler becomes a member of the paws4people family, and in turn, helps the next members of the paws4people family, just as the previous members helped them. This ripple effect among Direct Clients and Direct Handlers is the very essence of the PIF.
We have found that Direct Clients and Direct Handlers who participate in the PIF are much more invested in training, utilizing, and caring for their Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs. The PIF provides a mechanism whereby each Direct Client and Direct Handler engages in activities outside his/her comfort zone, thus allowing him/her to get involved in a process that is “bigger-than-him/herself.”
The PIF gives each Direct Client and Direct Handler an opportunity to tell his/her story, and to talk about the ways in which his/her Assistance Dog or Facility Dog is transforming his/her life and the lives of others.
For each Direct Client, the PIF is an important part of the process to build a fuller, more independent life. Each Direct Client is applying and honing skills acquired during Intervention Transfer TrainingSM, and using his/her Dog to control, regulate, and mitigateSM his/her symptom set in new environments and while interacting with new people. Each Direct Client is building bonds and deepening connections, decreasing isolation, becoming more social, and increasing self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of self-worth and making a real difference. Each Direct Client inspires and motivates others to find a way forward and to deal with life-altering disabilities.
For each Direct Handler, the PIF raises awareness and educates communities about the ways in which each is using his/her Facility Dog in his/her profession and/or volunteer activities, and providing educational instruction or therapeutic interventions, medical or environmental aid, methodologies to students with “special needs,” or support to individuals with physical, neurological, and/or psychological disability(ies). Each Direct Handler is an innovator and leader in his/her profession or as a volunteer.
Indirect Clients are not required to participate in PIFs. They are instead subject to the tuition fee structure of the Indirect Client Certification Program. They are subject to all other policies and procedures of the organization.
Each Direct Client and Direct Handler is asked to raise and/or or volunteer to a PIF Goal 1 of $10,000 between his/her Bump and his/her Graduation. We have found that setting a goal for each Direct Client and each Direct Handler ensures that each person takes an active role in the mindset and attitude of the PIF.
The average value of a fully trained paws4people Assistance Dog or Facility Dog is $60,000. The PIF 1 Goal of $10,000 is 16.7% of the average value of each fully trained Assistance Dog or Facility Dog. Thus, the $10,000 PIF 1 Goal for Direct Clients and Direct Handlers is reasonable and realistic based on the value of the Dog placed with each.
Since we placed our first Assistance Dogs, we have asked Clients to “Pay-It-Forward.” Essentially, we were able to raise and train an Assistance Dog or Facility Dog placed with you, in part, thanks to the efforts of paws4people Clients, Handlers, and volunteers who came before you. Now, it is your turn to Pay It Forward.
We have found that Direct Clients and Direct Handlers who participate in these campaigns are much more invested in receiving, utilizing, and caring for their Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs. Furthermore, we have found that setting a minimum contribution goal for Direct Clients and Direct Handlers ensures that they take an active role in the “sweat equity” mentality of the Pay-It-Forward concept.
A minimum contribution goal for Direct Clients and Direction Handlers ensures that they take an active role in the “sweat equity” mentality of the Pay-It-Forward concept.
While participation in the PIF is a required part of our placement process, public fundraising is not required. Some Direct Clients and Direct Handlers instead contribute themselves and/or their families, friends, and communities contribute on their behalf.
Some Direct Clients and Direct Handlers offset the monetary value of the PIF 1 Goal by performing “sweat equity” in collaboration with the organization and receiving “non-cash” credit for the “value added” to the organization. When a Direct Client or a Direct Handler is willing to travel to represent the organization at events, give an interview to the media on behalf of the organization, fill a volunteer position within the organization, etc., “non-cash” credit is added to his/her PIF 1 Goal.
Some Direct Clients and Direct Handlers easily exceed the PIF 1 Goal of $10,000 through their “value added” to the organization without ever soliciting or contributing any monetary funds. So truly, fundraising is not required to successfully participate in a PIF.
After your Bump, your Advocate will assist and support you with your PIF. Your Advocate can assist you with ideas, help you to create a plan, and ensure you have the materials you need and other paws4people representatives present to support any publicity or events. Our PIF toolkit is an easy-to-follow guide to get you started.
We will set up a page on our website about you and the Assistance Dog or Facility Dog with whom you Bumped.
Many of Direct Clients and Direct Handlers Pay-It-Forward by simply emailing family, friends, and their community with the link to his/her page on our website. There, people can contribute directly to your PIF.
You will attend a PIF learning session during your Seminar. You are not expected to figure out how to do this on your own!
We understand that some Direct Clients and Direct Handlers have extenuating circumstances for which education, raising awareness, and/or fundraising are not possible. For that reason, the Executive Committee may select a maximum of one Direct Client or Direct Handler per Bump to receive assistance in his/her PIF. Any Direct Client or Direct Handler selected may be asked to participate in publicity or events that are held by the organization.
paws4people does not believe that one can be “anonymous” living in his/her community with an Assistance Dog or working in his/her profession with a Facility Dog. The very nature of having an Assistance Dog in public brings passive disclosure that the person has a disability which an Assistance Dog helps to control, regulate, and mitigateSM. Although a Direct Client never has to disclose the nature of his/her disability for any reason, navigating the world with an Assistance Dog necessitates that he/she be a good ambassador for Assistance Dogs in the community. Similarly, working as a professional with a Facility Dog necessitates that a Direct Handler be a good ambassador for other Facility Dogs working in the community. As such, paws4people does not believe in allowing Direct Clients and Direct Handlers to be “anonymous” in the Client or Handler placement process. We do, however, make accommodations for Direct Clients and Direct Handlers who need different levels of anonymity due to validated security concerns.
Many Direct Clients and Direct Handlers surpass the PIF 1 Goal during the career of their Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs, thereby making that much larger of an impact on the organization’s ability to raise, train, and place more Dogs.
Those Clients and Handlers recognize each and every day the transformational benefits of the Dogs placed with them, and seek for others to experience those benefits, Dog for Dog, by the next and all future Direct Clients and Direct Handlers
The PIF is not about reaching the PIF Goal 1; rather, the PIF is the Direct Client’s or Direct Handler’s involvement, passion, and dedication as part of the paws4people family. PARTICIPATION & EFFORT are what matters.
Our placement process is very long and complex. Multiple factors dictate when an Assistance Dog and Direct Client or Facility Dog and Direct Handler are ready for placement, to include, the Dog’s training progress, the Client’s or Handler’s training progress, organization scheduling, and other factors. We treat each Team on an individual basis to ensure its ultimate success. That being said, if all of these factors are met and the Team is otherwise ready for placement, if the Direct Client or Direct Handler has not been participatory in his/her PIF, the placement may be suspended. However, if the Direct Client or Direct Handler has been participatory but is yet to reach his/her PIF 1 Goal, the placement may proceed while the Direct Client or Direct Handler continues towards his/her PIF Goal 1.
Your Advocate will begin creating a PIF plan with you, based on your abilities and interests, as soon as you are accepted as a Direct Client or Direct Handler.
We recommend that you follow the advice of your Advocate and begin right away, so that you can meet the following timeline:
A Direct Client or Direct Handler who has not met his/her PIF 1 Goal by Graduation is expected to have a set, ongoing PIF plan in concert with his/her Advocate. Each Direct Client and Direct Handler will continue to be assessed on his/her PIF efforts throughout placement; and continued efforts are expected until the PIF Goal 1 is reached.
Analysis of financial data shows that in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016 shows:
PIF 1 income was $169,677.
Overall Income was $1,138,485 (contributions) + $62,568 (program revenue) + $387 (interest) – $1,667 (capital general ledger) + $53,026 (fundraising events) + $1,406 (other) = $1,254,205 (total organizational income)
PIF 1 income was 13.5% of total organizational income.
Therefore, the organization is not solely reliant upon PIF 1s; however, without the support the PIF 1s of Direct Clients and Direct Handlers, our output of Assistance Dogs and Facility Dogs would decrease substantially.
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