New Leash History

As the field instructor for a national non-profit agency that trains assistance dogs, I received a call from CCA-Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, Oklahoma.  They requested help setting up an assistance dog training program. After meeting with them, we decided a better service to the community would be taking dogs from shelters and rescue groups that were passed over by adopters, and giving basic manners training to help them be more adoptable.

This program was started in October, 2004.  I gathered donated equipment and supplies, selected dogs from Pets & People rescue group and began teaching weekly classes to the prisoners and dogs in December, 2004.

Since the prison does not provide any funding for programs, we realized the need to form a 501(c)3 non-profit for donations. Michelle Traw and Carol Brown were recruited to complete a Board of Directors and “A New Leash On Life, Inc.” was born.

In June, 2005, the national agency decided to change their contract with field instructors and I made the decision to not sign.  Their policy is to not be active in a state without a field instructor, so until they can recruit another one, they will not be active in Oklahoma.  The volunteers and puppy raisers were anxious to continue their contribution to the assistance dog area so we expanded “A New Leash On Life, Inc.” to include assistance dogs.

Michelle Traw’s experience and passion is a high level of therapy dog work; working with therapists on goal-oriented therapy, using dogs for motivation.  In 2008, we added the therapy dog program.

These three programs all focus on helping people.  Through dog training, helping people live more independently, develop confidence in themselves and increasing their abilities.

Barbara Lewis
President and CEO

A New Leash on Life Inc. is about people helping people by utilizing the special abilities of the dogs we train for specific purposes. Our service dog and therapy dog training programs help Oklahomans with a variety of special needs live more independently, develop confidence and improve their abilities. Our companion dog program benefits the inmates who train them, the people who adopt them and the dogs themselves, who might otherwise remain unadopted.

Our story began when Barbara Lewis received a simple request from CCA-Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, Oklahoma to set up a dog-training program using inmates as trainers. Similar programs proved that inmates became more patient, tolerant and cooperative through the close association and bonds formed while training their dogs.

Lewis, an experienced dog trainer and an Oklahoma field agent for a national service dog training agency, gathered a few volunteers, donated equipment and supplies and selected dogs from a rescue group. In December 2004, they began teaching weekly classes to the inmates and dogs.

In June 2005, Lewis left the national service dog training agency where she had served for 16 years. The volunteers and puppy raisers wanted to continue their contribution to the service dog area, so A New Leash On Life, Inc. was expanded to include service dogs. In 2008, the therapy dog program was added under the direction of Michelle Traw.

Today, A New Leash on Life, Inc. continues to grow and enrich the quality of people’s lives because of the generous donors and supporters who believe in our mission. Together, we can keep making life better for the many Oklahomans who need our programs and the incredible canines who serve them.





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Donate to Oklahoma's New Leash on Life Making a donation through our secure server is fast and easy. We use a non-profit service to process our credit card transactions. GIVEDIRECT is the name that will appear on your credit card statement, not “A New Leash on Life, Inc”. Using a third party keeps our costs low and allows us to spend time and money on our programs. You may give a one-time gift, or set up a recurring donation each month or each quarter.