PAD was founded by Linzey Zoccola in 2009. Her love for dogs, desire to serve, and her experience with raising, training and having her own service animal inspired her to create a new and organizational model for the field. Through a combination of consultations and research on topics ranging from rescue dogs, canine breeding, issues with kenneling dogs, to the complex needs of individuals living with disabilities, the inspiration to launch PAD began.
Early on, PAD focused solely on using rescue dogs, and some of the most exceptional assistance dogs are from rescues. Due to significant temperament issues, and the financial resources required, PAD is only occasionally able to use dogs found within shelters of the east coast. Before choosing a dog to work with we conduct a series of temperament evaluations on site and over a period of days with each dog, as well as have a veterinary consultation to ensure the dogs health. We believe strongly in working one on one with partners to discuss their needs of an assistance dog. Each breed is considerably different, as is each disability. Getting to know our clients closely allows us to search for and obtain a dog that best suits their needs. This can range from size, hypoallergenic needs, temperament, and more.
In 2014, PAD bred their first litter of future assistance dogs, a Standard Poodle litter. This litter was shared with Paws with a Cause in Michigan and 4 Paws for Ability in Ohio. 6 out of 8 puppies from that litter are working assistance dogs or currently in breeding programs for their program!
Each puppy is raised and ideally trained by the same individual. By eliminating the multiple handlers involved in training a dog, a significant amount of stress is eliminated! This does not mean that the dog will not learn to work with and ultimately follow instructions from new or different people – the dog will learn these things through training sessions.
Around 15 months old, each dog meets individuals on our waiting list and interacts with them. This special time is called Meet The Dogs. Volunteer Staff assess each interaction and take into consideration likes and dislikes of each individual when matching the future assistance dog teams.
Phoenix Assistance Dogs believes that partner education on canine behavior and development is a crucial key in the success of their team work. We strive to work with partners while they are on the waiting list to develop the skills they may not have currently such as using a clicker, holding a leash, and reinforcing behavior. This differs from general programs because many partners apply for an assistance dog and do not work with the program for years until their number is up on the waiting list.
As of 2014, PAD has 3 certified program trained assistance dog teams working.
As of 2014, PAD has certified 8 Owner Trained assistance dog teams and has an average of 5 teams in the training process at any given time.
For more information or to ask specific questions please contact us at info[at]padcentral.org