About Our Foundation
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.
Over the last 22 years, our organization has placed Dogs in 22 states, with nationwide placement 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 using Assistance Dogs with which people are still unfamiliar – such as a Physical and/or Neurological Assistance Dog.
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 Medical Alert Assistance Dogs with Veterans and Service Members who are living with 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.
To be the world’s leading Assistance Dog organization, elevating the standards for training Assistance Dogs and their clients.
- Our team is our strength.
- Our dogs are our passion.
- Our clients are our family.
paws4people foundation raises, trains, and places Assistance Dogs with children, veterans, military dependents, and civilians living with disabilities. The organization provides certification, insurance, and support for the client/dog teams for the duration of their career.
- Our proprietary, comprehensive transfer training process.
- Our volunteer medical evaluation team who correspond with the clients’ care providers to ensure continuity of care.
- Our specialty in unique demographics: Children under the age of 14
- Persons who have experienced sexual trauma
- Persons living with Moral Injury
- First Responders
- Professionals utilizing Facility Dogs
About the Founder
Kyria Henry Whisenhunt was raised with her father’s German Shepherds, and successfully convinced her family to “cross-over” to the Golden Retriever breed, receiving her first puppy when she was 10 years old. Since that time, Kyria has been enveloped in the world of dog training, dabbling in disciplines such as advanced obedience, agility, rally, behavior modification, and scent work; but her true love and expertise is Assistance Dogs.
Kyria founded paws4people in 1999. During middle school, high school, and college, Kyria worked with her certified Therapeutic Facility and Educational Facility Dogs in nursing homes, hospitals, and special education classrooms. Kyria graduated from West Virginia University summa cum laude from the Honors College 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 Assistance 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 Medical Alert Assistance Dogs as adjunct therapeutic interventions within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy techniques.
Kyria was a 2010 Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year finalist; the winner of the 2011 IKEA Life Improvement contest; the winner of WILMA Magazine’s Women to Watch in 2014; the National Points of Light award in 2015; and the 2017 Coastal Entrepreneur Award – Non-profit in 2017. Kyria was also a finalist for the YWCA Women of Achievement in the Non-Profit category in 2021.
Kyria serves as Executive Director of paws4people. She is the Program Director and Instructor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Assistance Dog Training Minor, the first and only comprehensive Assistance Dog academic certificate program at a state university. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.
Most importantly, she is mom to her 8 month old daughter Thora Kate, retired Ambassador Dog, WYATT, fun-loving HOBBS, and her husband’s Service Dog RHYS.
Standards of Conduct:
paws4people is a 501(c)(3) public charity that places trained, certified, and insured Assistance Dogs with individuals with physical, neurological, psychological, and/or emotional disabilities, including civilians (including children, adolescents, and adults) through its paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program, and Veterans, Service Members, and dependents of either through its paws4vets Assistance Dog Placement Program. paws4people was founded in 1999. In the last 22 years, our organization has placed dogs in 22 states, with nationwide placement consideration.
paws4people has established for itself the following Standards of Conduct and Performance.
See how we are transforming lives!
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