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paws4people Founders Offer Independence to Individuals with Mental Health Issues through their Life-Saving Service Dogs

Last updated Friday, March 8, 2024 09:40 ET

The paws4people Foundation has been providing customized service dogs to individuals with mental health issues like PTSD.

Wilmington, North Carolina, 03/08/2024 / SubmitMyPR /

Psychiatric service dogs have been an encouragement of optimism for people dealing with mental health issues such as PTSD, emphasizing the necessity of addressing these issues. These specially trained canines serve as more than just companions, they are tools for empowerment, aiding their handlers in navigating the challenges of daily life with grace and resilience.

The process of pairing a person with a psychiatric service dog is not one to be taken lightly. Assistance Dogs International (ADI) mandates that recipients undergo rigorous evaluation and be actively engaged in mental health counseling. This ensures that those who receive these invaluable companions are committed to their own healing journey and equipped with the necessary support system to thrive.

For the past 25 years, the paws4people® Foundation has been at the forefront of the psychiatric service dog industry, pioneering innovative approaches to training and placement. Accredited by both Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and Animal Assisted Intervention International, paws4people sets the gold standard for excellence in service dog provision. Led by co-founders Kyria Henry Whisenhunt and Terry Henry, the foundation has made it their mission to provide service dogs to individuals of all ages living with a range of disabilities, including physical, neurological, psychiatric, and emotional.

However, the efficacy of psychiatric service dogs is not without its challenges. paws4people, being in this industry for so long, have seen that it is plagued by fraud and non-accredited organizations, preying on vulnerable individuals with promises of quick fixes.

The organization has a team of mental health consultants and staff and a volunteer subset of 12 consultants with various specialties. This team, known as the medical evaluation team, interfaces with existing clinicians to ensure continuity of care and client readiness for the rigorous process. Team paws4people understands the rigorous nature of the process and clinically supports the client through it. They aim to help the client face their challenges and work towards a more positive outcome.

The training provided by these agencies extends far beyond basic obedience commands; they aim to empower clients to reclaim control over their lives. Kyria has been a passionate dog trainer with a lifelong commitment to service and has been raised with her father’s German Shepherds. Her expertise in advanced obedience, agility, behavior modification, and scent work has significantly shaped the foundation’s approach to training assistance dogs. Through exposure therapy techniques and practical tasks, such as re-regulating during panic attacks or navigating crowded spaces, individuals learn to lean on their dogs as tools for healthier coping mechanisms.

Co-founder Terry Henry has a unique perspective due to his own experiences with PTSD. His journey with dogs began as a personal search for solace and support, and his dedication to canine companionship has driven the foundation's growth and success. Mr. Henry shares the story of a Marine Master Sergeant, who was forced into early retirement after 17 years of active duty service. Through the support of a psychiatric service dog, he regained a sense of purpose and reconnected with his community. His journey from crisis to stability serves as a testament to the profound impact these programs can have on individuals’ lives.

Moreover, the scope of service dogs extends beyond individual healing to crisis response support for first responders. By implementing trained Facility Dogs in high-stress environments, such as emergency medical services, fire departments, and law enforcement agencies, the organization is proactively addressing the mental health needs of the hour. As she reflects on the organization’s mission, Kyria emphasizes the transformative power of the human-canine bond, stating, “At paws4people, we believe in the extraordinary potential of every individual to thrive with the support of a well-trained service dog.”

Studies have shown that the presence of dogs can significantly reduce cortisol levels and regulate heart rate, offering immediate relief in the aftermath of traumatic events. This is crucial, as there is growing evidence appearing to show that a reduction in stress levels immediately following an event reduces the negative impact and trauma associated with the experience. In other words, a well-trained Service or Facility dog can provide relief to its human at precisely the moment when that relief is most impactful to the person.

Reflecting on the impact of their work, Terry Henry remarks, “Our goal at paws4people is not just to provide service dogs, but to empower individuals to reclaim their lives and find renewed hope and purpose.” Through their tireless dedication and innovative approach, Kyria, Terry, and the entire team at paws4people continue to transform lives and redefine the possibilities of psychiatric service dog assistance.

Media Contact

Name: Danielle Cockerham

Email: [email protected]

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