Give Us Paws is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Houston, Texas. We provide subsidized and free training of eligible candidates' dogs as service animals. We focus on veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and limited mobility. Services are also provided to civilians determined to be disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Veterans receive priority for funding and training. We train Service Dogs for individuals suffering from disabilities in order to mitigate the symptoms and to improve the quality of their lives.
Give Us Paws is committed to evidence-based training methods and to training service dogs to a high level of reliability that their handlers can depend on. We train in the most efficient manner possible, making sure our trainers are skilled in using positive reinforcement to build the behaviors people with disabilities need and that make our service dogs safe and reliable in public.
Give Us Paws trains dogs to assist those with disabilities to improve the quality of their lives. More importantly than teaching the dog, we teach handlers to train their dogs. Give Us Paws is committed to working with the handlers and dogs as they learn to work together as a team.
There are thousands of returning veterans suffering from PTS having issues adjusting to normal life. The VA does not supply any funding for the training or care for service animals of veterans with PTS and there's a large gap that needs to be filled with extremely limited resources. To acquire a trained Service Dog can cost $20,000.00-$30,000.00; the waiting lists can be multi-years long, programs for training and funding for that training are scarce. We provide a training program free of charge to our disabled veterans, if funds are available for training. Our program costs $2,400.00-$4,800.00 for civilians.
No federal registration or certification is required for service animals. ADI (Assistance Dogs International) outlines a set of Minimum Training Standards for Public Access that we use to provide guidance on training and standards. Our program consists of a 12-month, intensive curriculum requiring logged hours of training; at least 1 hour per week with a trainer and reinforcement training practice by the handler between sessions.
1Give Us Paws is committed to training methods based on positive reinforcement and supported by behavioral science.
2We are committed to training service dogs to a high level of reliability their handlers can depend on.
3Our training program is designed to take 6 months to a year. We adjust to the abilities of our client handlers to ensure success, even if it takes longer to produce a functional service dog team. We require complete participation of our client handlers in completing their assignments, keeping training logs updated, and meeting with a trainer at every scheduled session.
4We train in the most efficient manner possible, making sure our trainers are skilled in using positive reinforcement to build the behaviors people with disabilities need and that make our service dogs safe and reliable in public.
5We provide and require continuing education for our trainers to ensure they are skilled in timing, reinforcement techniques, and setting appropriate criteria for teaching clients to train their service dogs.
6At completion of the program, a handler/service dog team will have passed the Public Access Test developed by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and have full control of at least three tasks that mitigate the handler's disability. The handler will have training skills and the dog will have foundation behaviors to help develop further task behaviors as needed.
7We provide continued support for our client handlers for the life of a service dog through follow-up certification, individual consultations and training sessions as needed to address training newly needed tasks or training problems, and/or group events to provide training opportunities.
- Erin Richardson, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
grew up in a military family. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science. Erin has earned her CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed) through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and is a KPA CTP (Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner.)
Board of Directors
- Paul Buescher CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
Peace-time, service-connected, disabled Navy veteran, Paul, has spent many long hours at the VA hospital in Houston over the years. He had the opportunity to speak with numerous veterans, saw a need and the opportunity to help. Give Us Paws was incorporated as a nonprofit organization to provide funding for Service Dog training and certification to improve the quality of life for disabled veterans and civilians. Paul holds certifications from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA), has graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional program as a Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP) and is a member of both the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and International Association of Assistance Dog Professionals (IAADP). He also serves as the Vice President of Sea Services for the Houston Reserve Officers Association Chapter 33.
- Michele Corbin
Michele is currently the Accounting Analyst at local private equity firm in Houston, has been a bookkeeper and office manager in the construction industry for many years. In the past, she has served as Treasurer on the Board of her local civic association.
- Laurie Gawelko, MS
Laurie is the owner of Service Dog Express in San Antonio, has four years of Masters-level training and a subsequent degree (MS) in Service Dog work from the only university in the United States that is fully accredited by Assistance Dogs International – Bergin University for Canine Studies in northern California. The school was founded by Dr. Bonita Bergin, the "inventor" of the Service Dog concept. She has been training basic obedience as well as Service and Therapy Dogs for over six years, and was a Veterinary Technician for five plus years.
- Lisa Eller
is an assistant trainer and a disabled US Navy veteran. She retired from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and decided to pursue her passion for training service dogs for other disabled veterans. Lisa started as a Give Us Paws client and trained her service dog, Blake, through our program. Lisa has a personal and deep understanding of dealing with the effects of PTSD.
- Past Board Member - Theresa Tilotta
It is with heavy a heart that we mourn the passing of our dearest Theresa Tilotta. Theresa was a Board member of the Louis D. Tilotta Foundation and avid animal activist. She had a heart for animals that was larger than any other. She will be greatly missed.