The HERO – Help Empower Restore Overcome – program began as a result of one facility dog making a difference across Alabama. Facility dog Willow began working in the criminal justice system in May 2014. The impact she made was profound. As a result of her work, Alabama’s Office of Prosecution Services (OPS) submitted a grant application to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) that would fund the work of facility dogs and their handlers across the state. The VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) grant was funded and will be utilized to ensure that every victim in Alabama has access to the use of a facility dog. Alabama currently has seven facility dogs working across the state.

OPS is extremely grateful for the backing of the U. S. Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime, CCI, and ADECA in their support of our program.  The Alabama Legislature recognized the importance of Certified Facility Dogs in the 2017 Legislative Session when it passed Willow’s Law, Senate Bill 273, sponsored by Senator Holley. After its passage, Governor Kay Ivey also acknowledged the benefit of Certified Facility Dogs to victims by signing the bill into law. Since 2014 HERO has added 12 new dogs and serves the entire state of Alabama.  

Our Facility Dogs are giving to the HERO program through Canine Companions®. This is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.

Canine Companions® selectively breeds Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and a cross of the two. Canine Companions® trains four types of assistance dogs: service dogs, hearing dogs, skilled companions, and facility dogs. Service dogs assist adults with disabilities by performing daily tasks. Hearing dogs alert their partners, who are deaf or hard of hearing, to important sounds. Skilled companions enhance independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities. Facility dogs assist clients in a visitation, education, criminal justice, or health care setting. All of these dogs receive two years of training.

Canine Companions® is an amazing organization that places these talented, caring, and intelligent dogs free of charge with people and facilities where they provide support, comfort, and joy to hundreds.

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