PAALS exists to serve the community, primarily through placement of assistance dogs; but part of the training process involves many outreach and educational programs, also known as PAALS’ Animal Assisted Intervention programs (AAI). Prior to placement, PAALS’ dogs provide services to locations across the state including summer camps, after-school programs, reading programs, internships, and prisons. These outreach programs expose the dogs to a variety of environments, and at the same time, educate the community on dog care as well as the services that assistance dogs provide.
The community also learns about the variety of ways PAALS serves others such as through facility dog placement, which provides assistance in both medical and educational facilities. Through PAALS’ outreach programs the public learns that not only are PAALS dogs helpful in medical rehabilitation, but are also able to assist in the classroom in working with children with wide range of physical, emotional and intellectual disabilities. Those who participate in PAALS’ outreach programs or presentations also learn how assistance dogs help people with a variety of mobility disabilities including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, cerebral Palsy, metabolic disorders, and amputations.
PAALS started a program in partnership seven years ago with the South Carolina Department of Corrections called Prison PAALS. PAALS put three puppies in Kershaw Correctional Institution in February 2009 to begin teaching inmates to raise and train canines for people with disabilities. This program allows PAALS puppies in training to receive a large amount of one-on-one time and training with men who are trying to turn their lives around and give back to the community.
In 2013 PAALS became a certified member of the Department of Justice Apprenticeship Program and inmates have the ability to complete a nationally recognized certificate program through Prison PAALS.
During the program, the inmates learn more than just how to train a life-changing canine. Inmates learn how to work as part of a team, how to use rewards to get good behavior from dogs and people alike, how to provide medical care and first aid, and most importantly how to love again!
The VIP (Veterans’ Important PAALS) program also began at Prison PAALS in 2013 to incorporate qualified rescue dogs that are trained. Those who don’t qualify as an assistance dog will go to a veteran that is in need of a safe well-behaved companion.
“I did not realize how much working with the dogs actually helped me, it was therapy in itself. It was a win win situation for me and for the people who need these dogs. I’m currently getting ready to go home. I would like to be a part of PAALS when I get into society to further help the program. Also the PAALS program gave me a purpose for my life. PAALS has given me hope for my future.”Prison PAALS Inmate
PAALS partners with students throughout the year to work on service learning projects, scout projects, career days, etc. PAALS even has service clubs at Chapin Middle School, Chapin High School, and at USC (University of South Carolina).
PAALS has a special connection to the USC. Starting in 2013 PAALS has teamed up with USC for a wide variety of programs and events. A USC student who volunteered at PAALS started a club on campus. This organization is now called Cocky’s Canine PAALS and is dedicated to providing volunteers, spreading awareness and raising funds for PAALS.
The “Pet a PAALS Dog” program involves a number of PAALS assistance dogs in training that go on the USC campus throughout the year. The aim of the program is to assist students who may be stressed. Students have commented that having PAALS dogs on campus has really helped with homesickness as well. They have said that they miss their family dog and having an assistance dog in training on campus to pet and help train has really helped them cope with not having their own dog within reach.
PAALS has also teamed up with Carolina Life, a college-based inclusive certificate program for students with diverse learning needs. This partnership led to the expansion of PAALS’ college internship programs to include students with disabilities for a semester of learning in our animal care area. PAALS partnered with USC and South Carolina Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (SCANPO ) to create a social media internship in 2015.
PAALS also has had a special partnership for over three years now with Longleaf Middle School. Our program is integrated into their Zoobot Magnet program’s after-school curriculum. PAALS mission has always focused on education, as we believe our younger generation has an incredible ability to change lives. Rather than tell you about the impact this program has on 60 sixth graders each year we thought you’d like to hear it from our future ‘life changers’ themselves.
Being in PAALS, in sixth grade was an amazing experience. I learned about the importance of service dogs and what a service dog is. Before this program, I was very scared of big dogs. As a result of this program and working with dogs, I’m very fond of our furry friends. Through this program, I also learned about dog behaviors . The biggest takeaway I got from this program was the hardships that people with disabilities have to go through.Jasmine (8th grade ZooBot student)
Thank you so much for coming to our school and showing us how to handle dogs. I did not know how to pet them, I did not know if it was a new dog you do not pet them from the body but to pet them from the head first. I now know how to learn from a dog’s behavior if they are happy or to leave them alone. I know that if a dog’s tail is between their legs it means to stay away. You have impacted me a lot and I have learned a lot. Thank you so much.Rachel (7th grade ZooBot student)
Summer PAALS day camp is one of only a handful of camps in the country that integrate assistance dogs in training with kids who have disabilities alongside kids who do not. Campers learn the basics of service dog training, how to help people in the community, and work side by side with other youth and youth with disabilities, all while pairing up to train a service dog candidate.
PAALS began holding Summer PAALS Camp in 2007 and has held it annually every year since. What started off as a single week-long camp session has expanded each year. PAALS now holds four camp sessions each year.
At the two week-long Summer PAALS Camp sessions, (youth ages 11-14 and 11-19 for youth with disabilities), campers learn the basics of dog care, training and community service all while pairing up to help train a service dog candidate. Friday is usually field day trip with dogs.
PAALS has teamed up with the Big Red Barn Retreat to offer a week long session of Summer PAALS at the Farm (youth ages 11-14 and 11-19 for youth with disabilities). With the unique environment at the farm, campers will learn about dog and horse communication, training and care. They will also participate in enrichment activities like yoga with dogs and painting with horses.
Responding to requests from parent of older campers to provide a similar experience for their younger children, PAALS started Summer PAALS Pups camp (youth ages 8 – 10). At this camp, the young cCampers learn the basics of dog care, participate in dog games and crafts and practice teamwork while pairing up to care for a service dog training candidate.
I wanted to train the dogs because if I train them, the dog can go to a good person.Bryson, Summer PAALS Camper
I first started with PAALS because it sounded fun to just hang out with the dogs. But, not that I’ve worked with them more I find is more fun to know that my time there has helped that dog help someone else. It is a wonderful experience that has helped me (not just the dog) [understand] why service dogs are so important. It also doesn’t hurt to have fun with with some well trained, adorable dogs.Elena, Summer PAALS Camper
PAALS offers Reading PAALS twice a month at various locations in the Midlands of South Carolina. Service dogs with their partners and service dogs in training encourage young children to practice their reading skills by reading to a non‐judgmental dog from PAALS. This program boosts confidence in struggling readers and provides a fun motivational tool.
The PAALS Patriots Program is an animal-assisted therapy program for active duty service members and veterans with combat related anxiety symptoms and is offered in partnership with The Big Red Barn Retreat, Pathways Growth and Learning Center and the Veterans Administration.
PAALS Patriots teaches coping skills to help participants understand and address their mental health issues, improve communication skills, build trust, and reduce anxiety through experiential therapy. Coping skills are taught by relating training and behavior modification techniques used with service dogs and horses to everyday life applications. PAALS Patriots is facilitated by a multidisciplinary team including mental health specialists, the Executive Director and Head Trainer of PAALS, assistant dog instructors, equine specialists, and volunteers who are military veterans. The non-traditional setting and methods are particularly effective with people who have served in the military because it reduces the stigma associated with treatment and increases the number of veterans seeking care.
Before learning about PAALS I was at the darkest point in my life , after becoming involved in the [PAALS Patriots] pilot program and seeing the unconditional love and support the dogs offered I had a feeling of pure serenity.Dennis Price, PAALS Client
PAALS provides speakers for many dozens of presentations for South Carolina groups including Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, church groups, senior groups and many, many others.
PAALS also provides workshops for groups such as at-risk youth at the Department of Juvenile Justice. PAALS specializes programs to fit curriculums or to be integrated into workshops that have specific goals.
In addition to visiting schools all around South Carolina for educational talks, PAALS partners with a dozen schools for service learning projects.
PAALS also participates in many community events, festivals and conferences such as Kids’ Day in Lexington, Vista Lights and the South Carolina Assistive Adoptive Technology Conference.
On all of these occasions, PAALS helps educate about individuals with disabilities, service dogs and the Americans With Disabilities Act requirements regarding service dog access in public places.
If you are interested in having PAALS do a presentation to your group or organization, please submit our online Request for Presentation form.