Kids and Canines began in 1998 as a Hillsborough County Public School anti-truancy initiative. Initially funding came from the school system and from the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Since then the program has expanded to serve students with emotional and behavioral disabilities as well.

Operating only at the Dorothy Thomas Center, a school for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) within the Hillsborough County Public School System, middle and high school students attended the “Kids and Canines” class.  Kids and Canines was offered to students identified by teachers, counselors and therapist who could benefit from working with dogs.   Students would spend up to two class periods daily learning how to care and train dogs for service.  Overseeing this program was a Board of Directors who were responsible for providing the funding to support the program. 

The students graduated more than 85 dogs in the 16 years of operating as a class offering. 

Today Kids and Canines is an independently operated 501c3 non-profit.  Being a fully operational non-profit allowed Kids and Canines to add programs like Furry Tales that impacts the lives of more children.  It also allows programs to be offered beyond the Dorothy Thomas Center property, like the DJJ program. 

Serving those at Dorothy Thomas still remains a top priority for Kids and Canines.  We continue a partnership with Hillsborough School System and the Dorothy Thomas Center. 

The Board of Directors continues to provide oversight for the organization.  Funding comes from individuals, foundations and businesses who believe in the success of the program offerings. 

Because of the success of our program we continue to build programs that will serve of community; living our mission of “empowering children, changing lives, one dog at a time”.

Today we will graduate around 20 dogs a year. Those dogs will be trained by 60 student trainers and touch the lives of 350 people during their training.

Kids and Canines has three staff members and relies on over 40 volunteers for day-to-day operations.

“The dogs make me feel happy and calm.  Even when I come in not in a very good mood, the dogs will make me feel better.  The program has changed in my life, it helps me with my patience. I have to be patient when I train a dog because they won’t get it the first time.”  Nick, Dorothy Thomas Student Trainer