Our Story

We are in the process of writing our story…

In the meantime, this is the presentation given to 100 Women Who Care Maui on May 22, 2019. It shares the background of how Maui Therapy Animals came to be.
We are honored to have been nominated and selected that night by this philanthropic organization.

We would like to add that since this presentation, Maui Therapy Animals received its IRS official designation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax-deductible as of June 12, 2019.


Background Information

Thank you for nominating Maui Therapy Animals. The director, Shannon Dominguez, is currently on the mainland and I am sharing on her behalf.  My name is Shazara and I am a co-founder and contributing partner.  I would like to share an example of how our program has impacted the life of one of our clients, based on testimony from Shannon:

Michael is a 36-year-old traumatic brain injured patient whose life drastically changed at age 28 when he was struck by a car while riding a bicycle. His neurologist gave him a grim prognosis as permanently vegetative and no hope of recovery or ever regaining awareness. After three months of hospitalization, he was transferred to a long-term care facility for basic daily care with no physical or occupational therapy prescribed to attempt improvement. With no family or friends living on-island, Michael was all alone. The Animal-Assisted Therapy program befriended Michael and visited him with therapy dogs and animals. Initially, there was no response from Michael. Yet with persistence and consistent visits, it was eventually noticed that he used his feet and toes to grasp and pet the therapy dog lying at the end of his bed. This act prompted medical staff to perform EEG testing, revealing brain activity previously never thought possible, and prompting increased medical attention. Michael continued to slowly improve with weekly visits of Animal-Assisted Therapy and added medical attention. Now he can read and respond to simple written requests, track with his eyes, smile, laugh, give a head nod and thumbs up, all thanks to the dedicated therapy animals, volunteers and staff, who have improved his quality of life and level of care.

The continued success of our program and the ability to impact lives like Michael’s has been at risk several times in the past year and we need your help desperately.

For 19 years, Shannon Dominguez, director of Maui Therapy Animals served the community through another non-profit here on island and created the largest Therapy Animal program of its kind, having a consistent impact on the local community.  Shannon’s program was recently cut from the local non-profit organization, due to budget reasons, with short notice, leaving the 10 facilities that we serve without services and the 45 Therapy Animals homeless.  Shannon could not bear the thought of these animals doing anything other than what they were trained for, which is to serve and help others, so she personally adopted each of them and created a space at her home for them.  The animals are adapting to the transition and are anxious to get back to work and the facilities have reached out desperately, requesting that we resume the services, which we intend to do.  

Due to the unexpected nature of this transition, we have no funding and extremely limited resources. We have solicited help from our attorney to acquire 501(c) (3)status and he is volunteering his time to help us.  In the meantime, we’re in immediate need of funding so we can obtain liability insurance, maintain proper care for our animals, and hire employees, in addition to the volunteer staff.

We believe that lives are transformed through our program, whether you’re a client, or a volunteer, as our trained animals provide comfort, stimulate the senses, inspire socialization, encourage outward focus, entertain and amuse. 

There are 3 reasons that our program is unique:

  1. The majority (95%) of the animals were originally adopted from the Maui Humane Society and so our program gives them not only a home, but a purpose.  They share their unconditional love, and they work together cooperatively, to impact the clients they serve.
  2. Our staff (both volunteers & paid), include a wide variety of individuals, not only certified therapy animal handlers.  We welcome & train & include students, mental health professionals, physicians, & individuals with limited animal experience to participate in our program. 
  3. We provide a Humane Animal Education Program: We work with local schools to bring in training programs and provide tools so they can then make an impact in their local community and create similar programs.

We are committed to sustaining and growing this program.  We are very proud that in the past year, we were able to re-establish our relationship with Maui Memorial and we started expanding our program to include both the main hospital floors and the Molokini (psychiatric ward) facility. This happened in spite of a series of personal tragedies for Shannon.  She had to take a time of personal leave after the devastating loss of her husband of 28 years followed by the loss of her only brother who could not overcome his battle with cancer.  These were monumental losses, of course, but Shannon and I realized our mission was more powerful than any loss we would undergo during the course of our lives.  With our love & respect for each other and mutual commitment to service, I was able to carry the torch of our mission, in Shannon’s absence,  and continue sourcing the volunteers and support needed to not only sustain our efforts but to grow them further and impact more lives.

Now, at this point, we intend to, once again, in spite of our circumstances, continue this beneficial program, and we invite you to join us.   


MISSION STATEMENT: We strive to improve an individual’s social, emotional, and mental functioning with the support of one of our therapy animals..

Our trained therapy animals are dedicated to helping:

  • Children and adults with special needs
  • Patients and seniors in short term and long term care facilities.
  • Individuals in hospice care.
  • Individuals suffering from psychological and emotional trauma.


1.        Maui Memorial

            a) Molokini Unit

            b) Med Floors

2.        Kula Hospital

3.        Hale Makamae

4.        Hale Makua Kahului

5.        Maui Adult Daycare Kahului

6.        Hale Makua Wailuku

7.        Maui Adult Daycare Oceanview

8.        Arc of Maui

9.        Hospice

10.      Camp IMUA

Animal-Assisted Therapy Program Overview:

  • Dedicated to providing regular facility visits to various short term and long term care facilities on Maui.
  • Clients at these facilities have the opportunity to interact with these trained and supervised animals.
  • Visits over 500 adult patients and over 20 child patients monthly
  • Approximately 45 different therapy animals are involved in the program (including dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and chickens)
  • Numerous volunteers
  • Offers an unpaid internship for students to learn about the field of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Animal-Assisted Activities in the clinical environment.

Positive results we see in participants include, but are not limited to:

  • increased social interaction
  • improvement of fine motors skills and coordination
  • improvement in short and long-term memory
  • reduction in anxiety and loneliness
  • a lifting of depression
  • improvement in overall well-being

Humane Animal Education Program:

Our Humane Animal Education Program is offered by appointment to preschools, elementary schools, special education and specific interest groups (e.g. 4H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.) We discuss the responsibilities and needs of taking care of rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats and pet fish. This program creates an interactive and nurturing environment where children can ask questions and participate in this interactive learning modality furthering their individual confidence and understanding of animal care.

Through their participation children learn about the different types of animals and their individual needs, become fully engaged, and enjoy a fun, experiential, hands-on class interacting with the animals.


Volunteers should be aged 18 and up.  Minors (13-17) should be accompanied by an adult parent or legal guardian. The Animal-Assisted Therapy/Activities Program utilizes as little as 3 volunteers per therapy animal visit at facilities and up to 10 individuals, depending on which facility we visit. 

The Humane Animal Education Program requires a minimum of 3 volunteers and a maximum of 10 volunteers depending on the size of the group.  We accept up to 2 interns per year. Internships (unpaid) are available for a minimum of 2 weeks up to one year. Our interns have come from all over the world: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Japan, Maui and the mainland U.S.

1.      What, specifically, would the money raised through 100 Women organization be used for? (potential of $10,000).

Money raised would be used for costs to cover the program. Specifically feed and supplies for all  animals (approximately 45 Therapy Animals), veterinary care, structural maintenance and shelters, and overall operating costs.  Additionally Therapy Animal caretakers are needed to assist with animal chores, training, exercising animals, etc.