Pawsitivity Service Dogs for Veterans is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in St. Paul, Minnesota, EIN 47-1446634. Founded in 2012, we train service dogs for U.S. military veterans and first responders with PTSD and other disabilities.

Check out our annual report and financials.

As you will see, the impact was substantial and often life-changing.”

- Quote from our independent, third-party Impact Evaluation.

What are the unique strengths of Pawsitivity?

  • We know every single veteran personally and work with them personally.
  • We serve veterans as their whole selves, based on their own priorities and needs.
  • We train service dogs to do what the veteran wants, regardless of what we think they should want.
  • We chose veterans based on their level of motivation to achieve three types of goals: social, emotional, and physical goals (not just focusing on one type of goal).

How do donors know that their donations are being spent wisely?

  1. Proven. Pawsitivity is one of the few nonprofits in the United States that has had its outcomes assessed by an independent third-party Impact Evaluation. This means that Pawsitivity's work has been rigorously evaluated and found to be effective.

    The Impact Evaluation found that Pawsitivity's service dogs have a life-changing impact on the lives of their handlers. Handlers reported improvements in their physical health, emotional well-being, social interactions, and overall quality of life. They also reported feeling more independent and confident since receiving their service dog.

    The Impact Evaluation also found that Pawsitivity is a well-run organization that is committed to providing quality service to its clients. Pawsitivity has a strong track record of success, and it is dedicated to providing its clients with the resources and support they need to live full and independent lives.

  2. Effective. Pawsitivity exceeds the Charities Review Council’s top rating standard by spending an outstanding 83.67% of gifts on programs. That means that 84 out of every 100 dollars you donate goes directly to helping veterans with disabilities get the service dogs they need to live independent lives.

  3. Transparent. Pawsitivity provides service dogs to veterans at no cost to the veteran, but it takes $25,000 to train a service dog, and Pawsitivity tracks every penny spent. (Note that there are many other funding needs and levels, such as $50,000 to start a pilot program to help veterans train their own service dogs, $10,000 to help fund public education programs, or $1,000 to fully equip a service dog). Pawsitivity is completely transparent about its finances and its IRS 990s, CPA reviews, and annual reports publicly available. All financials are in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). We have earned Charity Review Council's highest rating (Meets Standards) and achieved Guidestar's Platinum Status.

    Pawsitivity is committed to being open and honest about how they use your donations. We believe that donors have a right to know how their money is being spent, and we are proud to share their financial information with the public.

Our training style for both dogs and families is very personalized. Pawsitivity's goal is to find the best solution for each particular dog/handler partnership, so we only work one-on-one with clients, rather than teaching classrooms full of people and dogs. We find that this warm, friendly, personalized style is the most effective way to find successful solutions for the complicated lives of veterans with disabilities. Pawsitivity is a full member of Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII) and is committed to positive reinforcement training methods (the same methods the U.S. Army uses).

In addition to our mission of training service dogs to empower veterans, we is committed to supporting veterans and underserved communities in their policies and as part of everything we do. Pawsitivity assets are invested in Vanguard’s FTSE Social Index Admiral Fund, which is composed of companies that meet environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria. This means that Pawsitivity is investing in companies that are making a positive impact on the world. Our service dogs are trained with all-natural freeze-dried treats from Rustic Acres. These decisions show that Pawsitivity is committed to supporting small businesses and giving back to the communities we serve. 

Service Dogs by Tom and Julie Coleman, CPDT-KA

Besides training service dogs for veterans, what other kinds of programs does Pawsitivity run?

Pawsitivity is a valuable resource for veterans with disabilities, service dog providers, and educators. We are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of veterans with disabilities and their families.

In addition to training service dogs, Pawsitivity offers a variety of other programs, including:

  • Training other service dog providers: Pawsitivity offers training programs for other service dog providers. These programs teach providers how to train service dogs and how to work with people with disabilities. Pawsitivity's training program is so good, that our textbook, Service Dogs: The Rescue and Training of Heroes, won the Midwest Book Award in 2016!
  • Helping rescues: Pawsitivity helps rescues by providing them with resources and support. They also help rescues find homes for dogs that are most appropriate for service dog training. Pawsitivity has created a mobile phone app to help shelter workers discover rescue dogs that are most appropriate for training. This app is called Good Dog!, and it's a game-changer for shelters and rescues.
  • Sharing with educators: Pawsitivity shares its knowledge and expertise with educators. They offer workshops and training programs for educators who want to learn more about service dogs. Pawsitivity’s Theory of Change and Logic Model are published on ResearchGate, which is available to all academics and nonprofits. This means that Pawsitivity is always looking for ways to improve their programs and make a bigger impact on the world.

Who is Pawsitivity Service Dogs for Veterans?

Who we are at Pawsitivity Service Dogs

The staff: 

Tom and Julie Coleman were a happily married couple with satisfying careers. But they felt like something was missing in their lives. They wanted to do something to help make the world a better place.

One day, Tom and Julie's best friend told them about her child with autism. The child's pet dog had helped the child tremendously, but the child's mother really wanted a service dog to help her child even more. However, there was no service dog nonprofit in the area that specialized in autism spectrum disorder. Tom and Julie were determined to fill this need. They got the training they needed and started Pawsitivity in 2012. Their original goal was to empower families of children with autism by partnering them with life-changing service dogs.

Through the years, Tom and Julie found themselves working more and more with veteran families because the need was so great. Soon, they shifted their focus to "empowering veterans and their families."

Tom and Julie are experts in dog obedience and behavior. Tom is an American Kennel Club-approved Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and Julie is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed. They both have extensive training in positive-reinforcement force-free training methods.

Tom is the Executive Director of Pawsitivity Service Dogs, and Julie is the Head Trainer and Managing Director. She is also a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Julie has a BA in Psychology from Carleton College, a certificate in First Aid and CPR for dogs, and a certificate in Understanding Autism from the University of Kent. She has taken dog-training seminars in person from Dr. Ian Dunbar, Sue Sternberg, and Connie Cleveland, as well as presentations at ClickerExpo.

Both Tom and Julie trained at CATCH Dog Training Academy at the Saint Hubert Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ. They have also studied at the Ranch (Karen Pryor National Training Center) with Ken Ramirez, as well as studied the Volhardt Four-Drive dog assessment theory at Mahogany Ridge in Culpepper, VA.

Julie is the quiet one who trains the service dogs. Tom is the outgoing one who works with the veterans who get the dogs. Both Tom and Julie have Master's Degrees. Tom has one in Theatre Directing from Northern Illinois University and Julie has one in Art History from the Chicago Institute of Art. Julie has been compared to a Border Collie because she is very organized and precise. Tom is more like a Golden Retriever because he is positive, warm, and a great listener. For better or worse, Julie works on her shyness while Tom always has to work to rein in his enthusiasm.

Tom and Julie are supported by two other part-timers, Ray and Frannie. Ray Nichols is a retired U.S. military veteran. He is a certified Master Dog Trainer by the Catch Canine Dog Training Academy. Frannie Kass is the Education Manager. Frannie is a former Pawsitivity client. She has trained extensively with both dogs and horses. She also runs the Instagram account, "Respect the Lex."

Pawsitivity is now a national leader in service dog training. We are passionate about our work, and with your help, we are making a real difference in the lives of veterans with disabilities.

The board:

Dr. Kris Butler, President; Dr. Michelle Parkinson, Vice President; Dave Mackmiller, Treasurer; Julie Coleman, Sergio Valverde.

The professional volunteers:

Dr. Jen Seidl DVM, from the Grand Avenue Veterinary Center, volunteers her medical services. Dr. Kim Halvorson, a Professor of Psychology at Metropolitan State University, donates her professional expertise and guidance. Dr. Beth Rausch, DVM, from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, is a medical advisor for Pawsitivity and has partnered with them for a research study.

  We hope you enjoyed learning about our organization. Now, it's time to take the next step: donate to help us continue this important  mission. Your donation will help us train more service dogs, which will in turn help more veterans live better lives.

Every dollar counts. Even a small donation can make a big difference. So please, donate today and help us save the lives of America's heroes, who have given so much for our country.

Thank you for your support!