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Our mission is educating and empowering people to utilize Assistance Dogs to transform their lives.
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.”
-Kyria Henry Whisenhunt, Founder and Executive Director
paws4people main headquarters, ADDIE’S Way, is located in Castle Hayne, North Carolina.
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 a process of a Dog choosing their partner from our selected Potential Clients. Bumps occur at our headquarters’ campus, ADDIE’S Way. Dogs are introduced to each Potential Client while staff watch for bonding and matching behaviors. We are big believers that the Dog chooses their person.
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 application request form, the applicant is notified within six to eight weeks if they are moving to the next step. If so, they will then receive a long application and be assigned a dedicated point of contact to communicate with through each step of the long application. Applicants who are not selected are welcome to reapply in the future.
paws4people Service, Facility, and Emotional Support Dogs are transferred to the Client or Handler on a custody contract. We do this for several reasons:
- It “encourages” the Client or Handler, to use and maintain the physical and medical condition of the Dog;
- It protects the 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 Dog;
- It enables the Dog to be insured under both our general liability and healthy insurance policies;
- It enables the required annual re-certification of the ADA public access of the Client and the Service Dog; and
- If a Client or Handler, uses the Dog for the purposes for which it was placed with the Client or Handler, cares for the Dog, and loves the Dog, then the placement can continue for the Dog’s career. If on the other hand, a Client or Handler discontinues to utilize the Dog for the purposes intended, mistreats the Dog, thereby proving that he/she does not love and value the Dog, then the placement is terminated and the Dog is returned to paws4people.
After a Client or Handler has Bumped with their Dog they will begin their team training. While each team works at their own pace, our Service Dog Client cohorts begin each quarter, while Facility Dog handlers must complete a minimum of 50 training hours within their workplace.
We provide highly trained, customized, and insured Assistance Dogs to people with disabilities. We love to think outside of the box and consider our specialty working with people who have experienced trauma. 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 Service and Facility Dogs, and to increase the public’s knowledge about the important roles these Dogs serve within society.
The average value of a fully trained Service or Facility Dog is $100,000. paws4people does not charge for their Dogs, but each Client or Handler is responsible for the general care expenses (Eg. food, preventatives, vet bills, etc.) once the Dog goes home with them. Clients and 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.
paws4people charges room, board, and tuition while Service Dog Clients are training at our ADDIE’S Way campus. paws4people charges tuition for training of Facility Dog Handlers, as well as travel fees if the facility is located outside of Wilmington, NC.
These expenses can be fundraised or paid directly. Once invited to start an application, each Potential Client or Handler is given a dedicated point of contact to guide them through all payment or fundraising milestones.
Each Service Dog is trained and customize to a Client’s disability(ies). We place Service Dogs with Veterans, Service Members, and their dependents. We also specialize in children under the age of 14 who have physical and neurological disabilities or have a mental health diagnosis as a result of trauma. Our Facility Dogs are used in professional environments and during volunteer activities to provide Animal Assisted Interventions, 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.
The average value of a fully trained Service or Facility Dog is $100,000. paws4people does not charge for their Dogs, but each Client or Handler is responsible for the general care expenses (Eg. food, preventatives, vet bills, etc.) once the Dog goes home with them. paws4people must raise funds from various sources. One of these is the Pay-It-Forward campaign, or PIF, in which the Client or Handler voluntarily engages in education and awareness-building efforts on behalf of the organization. Clients and 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.
Service 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 bloodlines and pedigrees have been carefully researched to produce Dogs with the required personality, temperament, disposition, and conformation suitable for Service and Facility Dog work.. 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 Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and a hybrid mix of both, Goldadors. 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 aster-dog relationship common in many of the higher-arousal working dog breeds.
Dogs who are unable to meet our stringent criteria for Service or Facility Dog careers can be placed as Emotional Support Dogs or Career Change Dogs. Each paws4people Career Change Dog is assigned a minimum donation amount to help offset the amount of training hours and veterinary expenses. To learn more about these Dogs, please click here.
All of our Service and Facility Dogs are covered by health insurance and 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 Service 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 Service 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.
How can someone receive a paws4people Service or Facility Dog? Start your journey by clicking here
When our Founder and Executive Director, Kyria, was in college in West Virginia she was introduced to staff at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They asked if they could collectively start a program where inmates would train the Dogs within the correctional facilities. Kyria soon realized it would greatly increase the number of Dogs paws4people could train. paws4people no longer trains Dogs in the Federal facilities, but we are currently active in two West Virginia State Correctional Facilities. Dogs begin training in the paws4prisons program between 18 to 22 weeks old. The Dogs rotate back to Wilmington, NC on monthly furlough trips until they are about one year old when they return to paws4people headquarters for Public Access Training full time.
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.
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:
• Self-initiated and appropriate communication; manual, augmentative, or verbal
• Initiation and engagement in social relationships
• Regulation with more socially appropriate self-soothing strategies
• Recognition and processing of feelings and emotions
• Increased tolerance for emotional and sensory experiences.
• Abstract critical thinking and problem solving
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 and now successor Canine Assisted Education Dog, BURKE.
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 puppies are raised and trained in one of our Puppy Development Centers from 3 weeks to 22 weeks old with volunteers and interns. We also offer “Puppy Hosting” on weekends for any interested parties that are within the greater Wilmington, North Carolina area. To learn more on how you can volunteer at our Puppy Development Center or receive information on our Puppy Host Family Program please fill out our volunteer application here.
paws4people is proud to have a partnership program with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. UNCW’s School of Health and Applied Human Services (CHHS) offers an interdisciplinary minor in Assistance Dog Training. The minor is designed to prepare students to be assistance dog trainers and to use animal assisted interventions in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
This program, the first and only comprehensive one of its kind in the country, empowers students to add a unique and marketable skill set to their education.
For those interested in learning more about our UNCW/p4p ADTP Partner Program please click here.
An Assistance Dog Type II, or AD2, helps mitigate a Client’s disability within their home. Similar to an Emotional Support Dog, an AD2 does not have public access. AD2s require a minimum 10 hours of in-home task training with a paws4people staff trainer, and they recertify annually just as the Service and Facility Dogs do. AD2s are beneficial to Clients who need the assistance of a specially trained dog in their home, but they do not need them in public settings. Some examples of tasks performed by AD2s are: deep pressure therapy, behavior interruption, item retrieval, and more.
? Yes, several of our Clients and Handlers require a Dog to perform tasks requiring multiple certifications. For example, a Veteran may have a Hearing Alert Dog trained to notify them if someone knocks on the door, or if a smoke alarm goes off, but the dog may also serve as a Psychiatric Service Dog who interrupts their panic attacks or wakes them from night terrors.
The paws4people / paws4vets
Pay-It-Forward Campaign (PIF)
The Pay-It-Forward (PIF) is a separate and distinct process whereby each Client and 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.
Clients and Handlers are asked as part of the application process to acknowledge their willingness to conduct a PIF campaign. Clients and 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 Clients to Pay-It-Forward. We were able to raise, train, and place their Dog, in large part, thanks to the efforts of paws4people Clients, Handlers, and volunteers who came before you. Now, it is the next Client or Handler’s turn to Pay-It-Forward.
Through participation in the PIF, each Client and 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 Clients and Handlers is the very essence of the PIF.
We have found that Clients and 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 Client and Handler engages in activities outside their comfort zone, thus allowing them to get involved in a process that is “bigger-than-him/herself.”
The PIF gives each Client and Handler an opportunity to tell their story, and to talk about the ways in which their Assistance Dog or Facility Dog is transforming their life and the lives of others.
For each Client, the PIF is an important part of the process to build a fuller, more independent life. Each Client is applying and honing skills acquired during Intervention Transfer TrainingSM, and using their Dog to control, regulate, and mitigate SM his/her symptom set in new environments and while interacting with new people. Each 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. Direct Client inspires and motivates others to find a way forward and to deal with life-altering disabilities.
For each Handler, the PIF raises awareness and educates communities about the ways in which each is using their 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 Handler is an innovator and leader in his/her profession or as a volunteer.
Each Client and Handler is asked to raise and/or volunteer to a minimum PIF Goal 1 of $10,000 between their Bump and their Graduation. We have found that setting a goal for each Client and each 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 $100,000. The PIF 1 Goal of $10,000 is 10% of the average value of each fully trained Assistance Dog or Facility Dog. Thus, the $10,000 minimum PIF 1 Goal for Clients and 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 Clients and Handlers, in part, thanks to the efforts of paws4people Clients, Handlers, and volunteers who came before them. Now, it is their turn to Pay-It-Forward.
We have found that Clients and 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 Clients and Handlers ensures that they take an active role in the “sweat equity” mentality of the Pay-It-Forward concept.
A minimum contribution goal for Clients and 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 Clients and Handlers instead contribute themselves and/or their families, friends, and communities contribute on their behalf.
Some Clients and 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 Client or a 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 their PIF 1 Goal.
Some Clients and 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.
What if Clients and Handlers do not have any experience with educating, raising awareness, and fundraising?
After Clients and Handlers Bump, their Advocate will assist and support them with your PIF. Our Client Advocate Team can assist with ideas, help create a plan, and ensure Clients and Handlers have the materials needed and other paws4people representatives present to support any publicity or events. Our PIF Toolkit is an easy-to-follow guide to get you started.
paws4people sets up each Client and Handler with their own page on our website about each Assistance Dog or Facility Dog Team.
Many Clients and Handlers Pay-It-Forward by simply emailing family, friends, and their community with the link to their page on our website. There, people can contribute directly to their PIF.
All Clients and Handlers attend a PIF learning session during their seminar. They are not expected to figure out how to do this on their own!
What if the Client or Handler has extenuating circumstances that make it impossible to educate, raise awareness and/or fundraise?
We understand that some Clients and 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 Client or Handler per Bump to receive assistance in their PIF. Any Client or 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 their 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 Client never has to disclose the nature of their disability for any reason, navigating the world with an Assistance Dog necessitates that they will be a good ambassador for Assistance Dogs in the community. Similarly, working as a professional with a Facility Dog necessitates that a Handler will be a good ambassador for other Facility Dogs working in the community. As such, paws4people does not believe in allowing Clients and Handlers to be “anonymous” in the Client or Handler placement process. We do, however, make accommodations for Clients and Handlers who need different levels of anonymity due to validated security concerns.
Many Clients and 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 Client’s or 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 Client or Facility Dog and 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 Client or Handler has not been participatory in their PIF, the placement may be suspended. However, if the Client or Handler has been participatory but is yet to reach their PIF 1 Goal, the placement may proceed while the Client or Handler continues towards their PIF Goal 1.
The Client and Handler’s Advocate will begin creating a PIF plan with them, based on their abilities and interests, as soon as a Client or Handler is accepted into our program.
We recommend that Clients and Handlers follow the advice of their Advocate and begin right away, so that they can meet the following timeline:
• $5,000: Raised and/or “non-cash” credit after Bump and prior to attending Seminar.
• $10,000: Raised and/or “non-cash” credit prior to Graduation (passing the final Public Access Test for Assistance Dogs or final Facility Observation Test for Facility Dogs).
A Client or Handler who has not met their PIF 1 Goal by Graduation is expected to have a set, ongoing PIF plan in concert with their Advocate. Each Client and Handler will continue to be assessed on their 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.