Nearly $400,000 Raised To Help People Heal From Trauma

First-Ever Innovation Awards for Advancing the Human Animal Bond Given To Noted Leaders of Business, Science, and Education

New York, NY: Some 300 generous supporters of The Good Dog Foundation, along with nearly 40 canines, gathered on May 15 for an elegant celebration to benefit adults and children struggling with disease, disability and despair. Good Dog is a national leader in volunteer andprofessional therapy dog team training, deployment and research. The event, “It’s a love affair!” took place Wednesday, May 15th, at New York’s Gotham Hall.

Headlining the gala was Isabella Rossellini in a short play, “Harry and Lulu,” written and directed by Arthur Yorinks from a children’s story he wrote, and featuring stage luminaries Jay O. Sanders, Anita Gillette, Mandy Masden and Brandon Dirden. The play, narrated by Ms. Rossellini who is completing a Master’s Degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation, was met with a mix of surprise and emotion from the enthralled audience. The performance anticipates the launch of Good Dog Audio Theater – an annual podcast series of short audio plays that explore the serious and comic nature of human-animal interaction.

Underscoring the gala’s dog-human “love affair” theme, and in a move to support a professional future for the Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) field, The Good Dog Foundation announced the first-ever Innovation Awards for Advancing the Human-Animal Bond.

Innovation Award Winner for Volunteer Services: Accepting the first award of the evening was Karen Ignagni, President and Chief Executive Officer of EmblemHealth, who said: “It is an honor to receive this award from The Good Dog Foundation, an organization that is at the forefront of increasing the awareness and availability of certified human-dog therapy teams.” EmblemHealth, one of the largest not-for-profit health insurers, is opening dozens of Neighborhood Care Centers, including in underserved areas of New York City, in an effort to empower and educate people to take a more active role in their own mental and physical well-being. Recognizing the power of Animal Assisted Intervention, EmblemHealth and Good Dog have formed a partnership to see if certified therapy dog teams can create a calming, welcoming environment; facilitate openness between Care Center staff and residents; and motivate improved outcomes like lower stress and increased compliance in managing health conditions. The partnership includes vital funding for Good Dog’s work in hospitals, schools and nursing homes as well as scientific research.

Innovation Award Winner for Scientific Research: James A. Serpell, BSc, PhD, Chair of Animal Welfare & Ethics, School of Veterinary Medicine University of Pennsylvania, won the award for his career-long contributions to Human Animal Bond research and specifically for undertaking the first-ever national survey of therapy dog team training methods. Good Dog joined Dr. Serpell in a working group that informed study design. Preliminary findings were completed this past year and indicate wide variation in policies and practices among U.S. therapy dog organizations, particularly with regard to health, welfare, and training standards for dogs and requirements for the screening and training of volunteer handlers.

Dr. Serpell’s findings point the way to best practices and are a vital first step in creating national standards for the therapy dog field .

Winner of the Innovation Award for Professional Services: Kirsten Kinsella, Administrator, Comfort Dog Program, Office of Safety and Youth Development, New York City Department of Education, won for her contribution to professionalizing the field of Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI). The Comfort Dog Program enables school faculty and staff to adopt and deploy dogs in their work, incorporating AAI into counseling, social and emotional learning, reading and math, speech, physical and occupational therapy. The Good Dog Foundation is participating in a supportive pilot collaboration, adapting its Therapy Dog Team Certification protocols to the specific needs of New York City schools. The goals of the collaboration are to continue striving for excellence in the Comfort Dog Program to help children reach high expectations while maintaining a safe, welcoming environment.

For more information about The Good Dog Foundation or this event, please contact Amy Takis at 917.215.2232 or  For all other requests, please contact:

About The Good Dog Foundation:

The Good Dog Foundation trains people and their exceptional dogs to work as a team to provide emotional healing and wellbeing and education support for children and adults suffering from disease, disability or loss. Thousands benefit annually, including people with cancer, kids on the autism spectrum, veterans with PTSD, seniors with dementia, and others suffering trauma or stress. The Foundation is a public nonprofit in its 21st year of Animal Assisted Intervention leadership.

Isabella Rossellini, star of HARRY AND LULU, a short play by Arthur Yorinks, presented at the 2019 Good Dog Gala

Marie with Good Dog Ella

Karen Ignagni, EmblemHealth President and CEO, accepts the 2019 Good Dog Innovation Award for Professional Services

Good Dog Mari enjoying the gala


Landing page photo: Good Dog Board Member, Randy Federgreen; Good Dog Founder and President, Rachel McPherson and her therapy dog, Atticus