Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW) builds successful working partnerships between clients and dogs that empower people and open doors to new opportunities.

Kindness and Respect

ADW raises and trains dogs with kindness and respect to assist children and adults with disabilities. Read more about Our Dogs.

Student Trainers

ADW teaches students of all abilities to help train our dogs. These student programs instill confidence, responsibility, communication skills and respect for diversity. Find out how to get involved with Our Student Trainers.

Greater Independence

ADW educates and advocates for people with visible and invisible disabilities and their right to have service dogs for greater independence in daily living. Learn more about the People We Serve.

Serving Communities

ADW staff is continually evolving to meet the needs of clients, students, volunteers, dogs and the communities we serve. Read more about Our Team

Our History

With the core value of respect for the singular bond between humans and dogs and their unique ability to work together as a team, Jill Felice (Program Director) founded Assistance Dogs of the West in 1995. Qualities of kindness, gentleness and respect in training dogs to assist humans define everything that we do. This compassionate training approach facilitates the deepest possible bond between humans and animals, and makes ADW’s program a model for best practices in social-relationship interactions.

The keystone of ADW’s program is teaching diverse student populations to support the work of professional dog trainers. Encouraging youth leadership is vital to who we are.

In the dog-training process, quality and quantity of learning both are served. Every ADW dog learns a minimum of 90 commands. Additional training that educates dogs to serve such complex disabilities as medical alert (link) and PTSD have expanded our programs, and continue to help us build community and empower diverse populations. Success story upon success story describe the incredible commitment and love ADW dogs bring to our clients’ lives.

We also have accepted new opportunities to extend our knowledge into settings that have distinctive needs for ADW dogs. For more than six years, we have trained facility dogs for work in professional group settings from private therapeutic practices, to drug treatment centers, to college campuses, to judicial districts. Wherever they serve in our program spectrum, ADW dogs reflect our commitment to fostering compassion as the hallmark of leadership and positive social change.

When the idea of introducing a Courthouse Dog to our Children's Advocacy Center was first discussed, my reaction was, "it will be kind of cool to have a dog running around the Center." Little did I know the difference Russell would make for our children, staff, and community. Russell can accomplish tasks in minutes what would take our highly educated and experienced staff an hour to achieve.

Kathy Rau, Executive Director, Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center
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Minimum Commands Learned
1995
Founded
40
Lower costs than National Average

When the idea of introducing a Courthouse Dog to our Children's Advocacy Center was first discussed, my reaction was, "it will be kind of cool to have a dog running around the Center." Little did I know the difference Russell would make for our children, staff, and community. Russell can accomplish tasks in minutes what would take our highly educated and experienced staff an hour to achieve.

Kathy Rau, Executive Director, Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center

If a child is reluctant to go into an interview room- give him/her Russell's leash and off they go. A hyperactive child having trouble focusing? Help them "train" Russell to do a trick using soft voices, limited body movements, and staying focused. Try to explain to a frightened child that he/she will have to come back for a medical exam or victim meeting? No problem if Russell is going to be there

Kathy Rau, Executive Director, Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center

Thanks to Assistance Dogs of the West, the difficult job of investigating child abuse allegations, preparing children to testify in court, and educating the public about child victimization has been made easier. Russell and Blake not only provides comfort to our children and families, but to our staff also. The soft nudge from a cold nose and a look from big brown eyes goes a long way in helping to deal with emotions after hearing a child talk about their abuse. We are proud to be partners with ADW and their incredible 4-legged angels of mercy.

Kathy Rau, Executive Director, Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center

Russell has been with us one year, and works at the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center 4 days week, then at the Pima County Attorney's Office one day a week. More and more, children that bonded with him at the Center are having to appear in court. This results in us having to shuttle Russell back and forth between his two work places. As we work with children who have been lied to and let down by the adults in their lives, it is critical we prove consistent care and keep our word that a friendly face will be there for them throughout the process. Enter Blake, our second Courthouse Dog that will work at the County Attorney's Office throughout the week, then switch with Russell on Friday, to keep the dogs cross trained. Blake will be introduced as Russell's best friend who helps out at court.

Kathy Rau, Executive Director, Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center