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Paws With A Cause® enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities nationally through custom-trained Assistance Dogs. PAWS® increases awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog Teams through education and advocacy.

In 1979, Michael D. Sapp Sr. and Antoinette (Candye) Sapp founded Paws With A Cause, initially named Ears for the Deaf®. PAWS® began when Mike agreed to help a friend. Marty Jansen and his wife, Dianne, are both deaf and had just adopted a young deaf child. Their hope was that Mike could train their Cairn Terrier CRYSTAL to alert them to important sounds such as their baby crying. Mike agreed and soon other deaf and hard of hearing people approached Mike and asked if they could have dogs trained as well.

Through the years PAWS has added additional Assistance Dog programs. PAWS now trains Service Dogs for people with physical disabilities, Seizure Response Dogs for people who have epilepsy, Hearing Dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and Service Dogs for Children with Autism.

What started out as Mike and Candye helping a friend has grown into a national organization that has impacted the lives of thousands of people. Because of Mike and Candye’s vision and hard work, PAWS enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities across the country through custom-trained PAWS Assistance Dogs.

PAWS trains several types of Assistance Dogs:


Paws with a Cause



  • PAWS Founder Mike Sapp trains the first Hearing Dog, CRYSTAL
, to help a friend


  • Mike and Antoinette (Candye) Sapp formally incorporate Ears For The Deaf®


  • A friend of Mike and Candye’s, Joe Russo, donates storefront property for training space
  • Mike Sapp begins giving presentations to service organizations, such as AMVETS and Lions Clubs International


  • Mike Sapp speaks to the Michigan Legislature to help initiate the inclusion of Service Dogs into the existing public access laws for Guide and Hearing Dogs


  • Ears For The Deaf trains its first Service Dog, CIDER


  • Ears For The Deaf becomes a United Way agency
  • Telephone Pioneers raise $120,000 to purchase location for a training facility


  • Ears For The Deaf trains its first Seizure Response Dog
  • Ears For The Deaf becomes a national project of the AMVETS National Ladies Auxiliary


  • Ears For The Deaf changes its name to Paws With A Cause® (PAWS®)

  • PAWS breeds its first litter of Foster Puppies


  • PAWS receives national exposure through the Dear Abby column, resulting in gaining a Head Assistance Dog Trainer


  • PAWS adds a Southeastern Michigan Regional Representative

  • Paws With A Cause designs its corporate logo
  • PAWS trains its 500th Assistance Dog


  • PAWS partners with Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida to train and certify first Service/Guide Dog
  • PAWS joins the Combined Federal Campaign


  • PAWS trains its 1,000th Assistance Dog
  • PAWS moves into National Headquarters on Division Avenue in Wayland, Michigan


  • Michigan Governor John Engler asks Mike Sapp to attend the signing of a bill into law that granted public access rights to Assistance Dog trainers


  • PAWS builds the Canine Evaluation Center and establishes on-site Veterinary Department
  • PAWS forms a Research and Development department


  • PAWS is accredited by Assistance Dogs International


  • PAWS builds the Canine Development Facility to house the Breeding and Foster Puppy departments


  • PAWS celebrates 25 years of enhancing independence for people with disabilities
  • NBC’s Today Show features PAWS


  • Social Support Dog program begins, providing emotional support and companionship for clients who may not qualify for a fully-certified Assistance Dog


  • PAWS trains its 2,000th Assistance Dog


  • PAWS Co-Founder and CEO, Candye Sapp retires
  • COO Mike Sapp becomes CEO


  • PAWS launches pilot program to train Service Dogs for Children with Autism


  • PAWS Apprentice Trainer program becomes the first Assistance Dog training program recognized and registered by the United States Department of Labor


  • PAWS Co-Founder Candye Sapp passes away
  • PAWS trains its 2,500th Assistance Dog