paws4people, Inc.

Assistance Dogs Transforming Lives

aka paws4people foundation and paws4vets and paws4prisons   |   Wilmington, NC   |  www.paws4people.org

Mission

paws4people's mission is educating and empowering people to utilize Assistance Dogs to transform their lives. Since its founding in 1999, paws4people has placed over 850 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. paws4people specializes in training customized Service Dogs for two general groups: children and adolescents with physical, neurological, psychiatric, or emotional disabilities; and Veterans and Service Members with Chronic/Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST)/Sexual Trauma (ST).

Ruling year info

2000

Founder and Executive Director

Ms. Kyria Henry Whisenhunt

Deputy Executive Director

Mr. Terry Henry

Main address

1121C-324 Military Cutoff Rd

Wilmington, NC 28405 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

54-1948479

NTEE code info

Animal Training, Behavior (D61)

Services to Promote the Independence of Specific Populations (P80)

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

paws4people foundation was founded by Kyria Henry Whisenhunt in 1999, when she was just 12 years old, with the purpose of using dogs as a means of helping people. This nonprofit’s mission is educating and empowering people to utilize Assistance Dogs to transform their lives. We have over 1,200 highly trained Assistance Dogs with one or more certifications providing support in areas such as psychiatric service, mobility, and crisis response, just to name a few. Together, these dogs have made more than 1,000,000 contacts. Presently, we specialize in training customized Assistance Dogs for two general groups: children and adolescents with physical, neurological, psychiatric, and/or emotional disabilities; and Veterans and Service Members with Chronic/Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), Military Sexual Trauma, and Moral Injury.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program

paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program trains and places three types of Dogs with children, adolescents, and adults who have physical, neurological, psychological, or other medical challenges.

The first type of Dog placed is a Service Dog. A Service Dog is 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 or disabilities. The Service Dog provides help in conducting everyday life skills, thus enabling the Client to perform more independently than he/she otherwise would without his/her Service Dog.

paws4people also places Facility Dogs 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.

The third type of Dog placed is an Emotional Support Dog, who is specially trained to provide comfort to his/her handler within the handler's own home and other dog-friendly environments.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities
People with diseases and illnesses

The paws4vets Assistance Dog Placement Program places Medical Alert Service Dogs-Psychiatric, Mobility Assistance Dogs, and Emotional Support Dogs with Veterans, Service Members, and military dependents living with physical, neurological, psychiatric, or emotional disabilities.

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Military personnel

The paws4prisons Program teaches Inmates to train various types of Assistance Dogs and then manages and supervises the training of these Assistance Dogs for and in support of the mission of the paws4people.

The Program Inmates, a very high percentage of whom have PTSD or C-PTSD, learn how to train (basic and advanced obedience commands) to "shelter-rescue dogs,” then progress to training highly-trained Assistance Dogs, some know in excess of 100 commands. The Program Inmates also participate in the customized training, public access training, certification testing and final placement processes for their Dogs, including the transfer training process of the dog’s "Assistance Dog Team Partner.”

This Program has served as an inmate rehabilitation program and has considerable success in aiding Inmates with PTSD/C-PTSD to recover, or at the very least, better cope with, their PTSD/C-PTSD and its symptoms by utilizing the therapeutic benefits of "Special K-9 Powers” possessed by the dogs they train.

The paws4prisons Program is the largest training venue for paws4people Assistance Dogs. Within each correctional facility, the paws4prisons Program is an Honors program, which demands the highest behavior and performance standards of each Inmate who participates in the Program. All Program dogs reside within the prison with their assigned Inmate Trainers, and are taken out of the facility by paws4people volunteers, training staff, or, in some cases, the Inmate Trainers for socialization and public access training.

All inmates are pre-screened before they are allowed to apply to the Program. Upon approval, they are then allowed to complete an application and schedule an interview. Once an inmate passes the first three components of the application process, he/she is interviewed by a member of the paws4prisons staff.

Upon acceptance into the Program, all Inmates begin a rigorous academic and hands on training "boot camp” for a minimum of 20 weeks. During that time, Inmates are required to attend all classes, complete all assignments, essays, quizzes and exams while learning the hands on training that works in conjunction with the academic program.

The curriculum is designed to teach the following: How Dogs Learn, The Trainer/Dog Relationship, Training Challenges, Training Techniques, Canine Behavior and Personalities, Canine Psychology, Wheelchair Etiquette, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Assistance Dogs, Corrections, Canine Hip Dysplasia, Parasites, Canine Anatomy and CPR, Public Etiquette, Home Safety, Canine Immunology, Canine Reproduction, Canine Massage Therapy, Disabilities (Overview of Disabilities)Post Traumatic Stress Disorder /Military Sexual Trauma, Leash Handling, Coddling, Teaching a Dog to Read, Laser Retrieval, Elevator and Vehicle Loading/Unloading Protocols, Public Speaking and much more.

In addition to the academic curriculum, all Inmates are required to complete a series of leadership classes and essays designed to encourage the Inmates to work toward acceptance of their crimes, seek forgiveness where appropriate, and move forward with their lives on a more positive and productive path. This Program, while providing highly trained Assistance Dogs that meet the mission of paws4people also teaches Inmates to be:

• more disciplined in their daily lives
• compassionate, caring, loving, patient, and tolerant of others
• self motivated
• appreciative of all life has to offer
• team oriented
• good leaders
• better mothers/fathers/family members
• proactive instead of reactive
• professional

The paws4prisons staff is very proud of the Program within each facility. We are dedicated to producing highly trained Assistance Dogs to paws4people Clients and to helping our Inmate Trainers become tomorrows leaders.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

After a great deal of planning and preparation, August 24, 2011 saw the first class session of the University of North Carolina Wilmington/paws4people Service Dog Training Program. The inaugural class consisted of 22 UNCW undergraduate students with majors ranging from Recreation Therapy to Psychology to Accounting. That multifaceted group was just what paws4people had hoped for in order to introduce the world of Service Dogs and the people they serve to a group of future professionals in a wide array of disciplines.

This Program is formatted as a four-course progression teaching students about the types of Service Dogs serving today’s society, the history of Service Dogs, legislation governing their training and utilization, the types of disabilities Service Dogs are trained to mitigate, training theory and practice, dog psychology and body language, and most importantly hands-on practice in utilizing Service Dogs and Facility Dogs in many different environments and disciplines. Students who choose to complete all four courses of the Service Dog Certificate Program will be eligible to receive a paws4people Facility Dog, custom-trained to utilize in their respective careers, such as Education, Social Work, Recreation Therapy, Gerontology, and UNCW’s many other service-oriented degree programs.

This Program, the first and only comprehensive one of its kind in the country, will empower students to add a unique and marketable skill set to their education.

Beginning its ninth academic year of course offerings in Fall semester 2019, the UNCW/paws4people Service Dog Training Program has grown and flourished.

Population(s) Served
Students

In 2009, the paws4reading Program became an affiliated member of the Intermountain Therapy Animal’s R.E.A.D.® (Reading Educational Assistance Dogs) Program. R.E.A.D.® is a nationally recognized Literacy Program. The Program’s mission is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered animal therapy teams as literacy mentors. Also of interest, Senator Orrin Hatch submitted a Senate Resolution designating November 14th, 2009 National Reading Education Assistance Dog Day commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the R.E.A.D.® Program.

The R.E.A.D.® certification provides the handler a wide variety of skills, strategies, and tactics to better instruct the children they work with.

During the later part of the 2008/09 school year, the paws4reading Program conducted R.E.A.D.® pilot programs at Hillsboro Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School. In school year 2009/10, several additional Loudoun County Public Schools were included in the Program. Since then, schools in North Carolina, to include the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools, and West Virginia participated in the paws4reading Program. The paws4reading Program also was invited into three County library systems.

Together with Reading Specialists and Teachers, students were selected who would most benefit from the Program (i.e., those students reading below grade level, students with low self-esteem, students with learning disabilities, etc). Each student/child spends about 15-20 minutes with the Dog — a few minutes getting acquainted and comfortable and then time reading. The same students participate each week so that a more trusted, secure relationship between the student and the Dog evolves. The student/child and the Dog sit together on the floor, usually with some physical connection between Dog and child. Experience has shown that the student’s/child’s self-confidence and self-esteem flourish because the Dogs are non-judgmental and provide a level of relaxation to the learning environment.

One key to the success of the paws4reading Program/ R.E.A.D.® experience is a shift away from the student viewing him/herself as the target of yet another remedial program, and toward them seeing themselves as tutors and helpers for the dog. In essence, the student/child becomes the "teacher” and as is known, when one teaches, one learns.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

In 1996, paws4people Founder and CEO Kyria Henry (then 9 years old) got her first puppy, a Golden Retriever named RILEY. She began training RILEY. In 1999, at the age of twelve, Kyria Henry and RILEY began visiting nursing homes and a geriatric hospital. Kyria Henry’s expressed desire at the time was that her dog "RILEY needed to make people happy.” In July 1999, paws4people was established and RILEY became the first Therapeutic Facility Dog of the paws4seniors Program.

From 1999 through March 2002, Kyria Henry and her one, then two, then three dogs, made hundreds of nursing home and geriatric hospital visits making countless people "happy.”

Scores of paws4seniors volunteers, using their Therapeutic Facility Dogs, visit nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and hospices, and have recorded well-over 50,000 therapeutic contacts during more than 2,500 visits.

Population(s) Served
Seniors

In March 2002, paws4people Founder and Executive Director, Kyria Henry, was asked by an occupational therapist at Loudoun Valley High School (LVHS), Purcell­ville, VA, to bring her "Social-Therapy Dogs” to school to see if they might help to stimulate or motivate se­vere disabilities to engage in any sort of physical activities. Within the last 8 weeks of that school year, Kyria Henry's Dogs succeeded in getting one student, who always refused to get out of her wheelchair, to get out of the wheelchair and to walk several hundred feet at a time. The Dogs motivated several other students who had not participated to engage in activities with the Dogs, even going outside to walk and play ball with them.

Thus began Educational Animal-Assisted Instruction in the Loudoun County Public School Sys­tem, and the creation of the paws4education Program.

The success of Educational Animal-Assisted Instruction during the end of the 2001/02 school year was deemed so overwhelming that over that summer the principals, teachers and therapists obtained permission to conduct a pilot-program at two additional schools during the 2002/03 school year. During the 2002/03 school year, Educational Animal-Assisted Instruction operated in three schools: LVHS, Round Hill,and Mountain View Elementary Schools. During that year, methodologies were developed by the LCPS occupational therapist, guidance counselors, and special needs teachers which utilized the Dogs "special motivational” capabilities to assist students to accomplish specific Individual Education Plans (IEP) goals and objectives. Special, unique and complex training protocols also were develop to facilitate the Dog’s abilities and capabilities to operate within the extremely unique, chaotic, and complex environments of the "special needs” classrooms.

During the next school year 2003/04, the Educational Animal-Assisted Instruction pilot program was expanded to five schools. A few of the most noteworthy accomplishments that oc­curred during that time:

• A class of five students with Down Syndrome was expected to learn individual words using American Sign Language. By the end of the year, all five could sign seven or more complete sentences about the Dogs.

• A student with Cerebral Palsy, who initially could not walk more than a few steps without falling, could walk from the back of the school to the front of the school (walking the dog and counter-balancing using the Dog’s leash), without falling. With the Dogs present, she would actively and enthusiastically engage in therapies and class activities she previously avoided.

• A student with Autism, who was non-verbal at the beginning of the year, began "mimic-speech” concerning activities he wanted to do with the Dogs (shortly before the Winter Break). During the final weeks of the school year, he began self-directed speech, by asking specifically for what he wanted to do with the dogs. He only displayed that self-directed speech in the presence of the Dogs. The following school year saw this student engage in self-directed speech while participating in classroom activities, while the Dogs were present.

In May of 2005, after a presentation to the LCPS School Board explaining the program and reviewing the success of the pilot program, the School Board gave their unanimous approval for the paws4education Program to con­tinue and to expand to any LCPS school desiring to have the program.

Facility Dogs are routinely used in the following educational venues/programs:
• Special Education Classrooms – IEP Based Instruction
• Regular Education Classrooms – Enrichment Programs
• Behavior Modification
• Physical & Occupational Therapy
• Speech Therapy
• English as a Second Language (ESL) Classrooms
• Reading Improvement Programs
• Dog Fear/Panic Attack Reduction/Elimination Programs
• Grief Counseling.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities
Children and youth

During weeks 8-16, our puppies begin the "puppy development” phase of our 2-year, 5-stage training process.

In the Puppy Development phase, the focus shifts on intense socialization and exposure for the puppies. It is widely accepted within dog training and psychology that the first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life have a permanent impact on their temperament, psyche, and trainability. Therefore, we utilize this time to expose the puppies to as many different positive experiences as humanly possible.

A network of volunteers, staff, and families assist us with taking the puppies on outings so that they are exposed to as many textures, sights, and sounds as possible during this imprinting stage. We end up with extremely social, low-arousal, and low-stress puppies, ready to begin their specialized training!

Our puppies are located at one of three paws4people Puppy Development Centers (PDC):

• PDC Wilmington (North Carolina)
• PDC Mid-Atlantic
• PDC-NY

Population(s) Served
Families
Seniors

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total number of Dogs under Post-placement Management

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Families, Veterans, People with disabilities

Related Program

paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Total includes Service Dogs, Facility Dogs, and Emotional Support Dogs under post-placement management at fiscal year end.

Total Annual Revenue

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Families, Veterans, People with disabilities

Related Program

paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

The annual revenue is reported by paws4people fiscal year July 1-June 30 on IRS Form 990. In 2020, we conducted a short year audit so that we could switch back to a traditional calendar year.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

With a low estimate of 20 Veterans each day and 7,300 a year committing suicide, every year, there is a moral imperative to help more Veterans and Service Members living with disabilities obtain and utilize highly-trained service Dogs who will transform and, in most cases, save their lives.

Over the last 13 years, the paws4vets Assistance Dog Placement Program has:

• redefined training protocols for Psychiatric Service Dogs, which have transformed them from mere Service Dogs that perform 3 trained tasks to “help" a Client function, to paws4vets Psychiatric Medical Alert Service Dogs, an “adjunct medical device" that enables Veterans to control, regulate, and mitigate® their psychiatric symptom sets and to achieve K9-centric Post Traumatic Growth®.

• developed a proprietary “K-9 centric adjunct therapeutic process" that we call Intervention Transfer Training® (ITT), where these paws4vets Psychiatric Medical Alert Service Dogs transform “Cave Dweller-type" Veterans from -- non-functional, heavily-medicated, and suicidal -- to functional, lightly/non-medicated, and reconnected with their families and society in an average of 5-12 months!

• placed over 250 paws4vets Psychiatric Medical Alert Service Dogs with Veterans with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Moral Injury, Dissociative Amnesia, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and PTSD resulting from Sexual Trauma (Military or civilian).

paws4vets Psychiatric Medical Alert Service Dogs have been proven to be as important to a Veteran's recovery as is a prosthetic leg or arm is to an amputee's recovery!

Goal #1 is to scale so that the paws4vets Assistance Dog Placement Program can progress from helping Dozens of Veterans per year to helping Hundreds and eventually Thousands.

Each Service Dog has a total average cost of ~$100K at placement through its paws4vets Program.

paws4people is a recipient of the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program (WWSDP) grant in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2021. The WWSDP funds support operational expenses associated with the training and placement of highly-trained Service Dogs with Veterans and Service Members. With the WWSDP funds, we move one step closer to our goal of helping 100s of Veterans and Service Members each year.

paws4people's Assistance Dog Placement Programs are unique and extremely effective because of:

• a 2-year, 5-stage training process for purpose-bred Dogs, which training begins one Day 1 and continues for the working life of each Dog.
• Client Advocates begin contact with Clients as soon as they are accepted into the Program and deemed a Potential Client. Client Advocates are tasked with coordinating schedules in addition to providing emotional support and guidance.
• "Bump" process traditionally takes place at paws4prisons Program training locations, almost always in the correctional institution where the Dog is being trained, and is process by which each Dog chooses his/her Client at which point, a Dog-Client Team is formed.
• paws4people Medical Evaluation Team (pMET), a volunteer group of consulting mental health professionals who work with each Client's care providers to create training plans and to ensure continuity and likeness of goals with the Client's medical, mental health, and ancillary treatment team.
• Proprietary, Intervention Transfer Training® (ITT) process.
• Quality aftercare for the Clients and their Service Dogs. Each client is supported as he/she learns and grows with his/her Service Dog. Client Advocates support each Client with contact once a week for the 1st 6 weeks, then once a month for the first year. After the 1st year, the advocates remain in close contact with the Clients, checking in with them at least once per quarter in perpetuity. Additionally, paws4people Client Advocates are available to their clients each and every day and can be reached for help at any time. Other paws4people staff members also are available to answer questions and provide support.
• Annual Family Reunion and Graduation held in Wilmington, North Carolina over a two-day period each November.
• Requirement of annual re-certification testing to ensure continual quality of placements.

paws4people's goal is to be the world's leading Assistance Dog organization, elevating the standards for training Assistance Dogs and their Clients.

Financials

paws4people, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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paws4people, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 12/31/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Mr. Terry Henry


Board co-chair

Ms. Kyria Whisenhunt

Terry L. Henry

Kyria Henry Whisenhunt

Mark P. George

Harry Martens

Jonathan Peskoff

George Zimmerman

William Cameron

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 12/28/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person with a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

Transgender Identity

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data