Support dogs enhance life, promote independence

Missouri Southern alumni Betsy Saul developed, a Web site devoted to helping people find a pet from humane societies nationwide.

Greg Salzer

Missouri Southern alumni Betsy Saul developed, a Web site devoted to helping people find a pet from humane societies nationwide.

JEFFERSON CITY — Dogs of all shapes and sizes visited the state capital for Humane Day at the capital.

Carried under arm, restrained on leashes and sitting beneath tables, each dog brought smiles to the faces of passing legislators and visitor’s faces on April 12.

Various animal shelters, support dog organizations and humane societies had representatives on hand to staff informational booths on the third floor of the state capital building.

Support Dogs, Inc. staff passed out information and explained their program to passersby. The program trains dogs to be service dogs for persons needing assistance with mobility tasks.

Janice Brennan, a trainer with Support Dogs, Inc., brought Timber, a black Labrador Retriever, to give a demonstrations on the dog’s abilities.

Timber retrieved an umbrella, coins, keys and cell phone dropped by Brennan as part of her demonstration.

The dogs are trained to return the item to the persons lap, Brennan said.

“The dogs know who they are supposed to be with,” Brennan said.

When Timber pulled off Brennan’s shoes and socks, the gathered spectators laughed and applauded.

Dogs trained by Support Dogs, Inc., are street-certified, meaning they can accompany their owners anywhere.

One of the other organizations represented has a Missouri Southern connection.

Southern Alumni Betsy Saul, who graduated in the late 1980s, developed The web site is an online database of animals from shelters, humane societies and animal rescue groups across the nation with pictures and descriptions of animals available for adoption.

Representing Petfinder at the capital were Saul’s parents, Dr. Mike and Joan Banks. Mike Banks is a former teacher education professor at Southern.

“ is the largest animal welfare organization [online],” Banks said.

There are more than 160,000 animals available on Petfinder from over 8,500 shelters and rescue groups.

Saul started Petfinder in 1995 in New Jersey. The web site went national in 1998.

There were over 1.5 million pet adoptions facilitated by the web site last year.

Pets available for adoption in Southwest Missouri, besides dogs and cats, include hamsters, guinea pigs, goats and rats. Some shelters have horses, donkeys and other large barnyard animals listed.

For more information about either of these organizations, visit their respective web sites at or