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Meet the Founder of Assistance Dogs

Meet the Founder of assistance dogs for people living with physical disabilities, Dr Bonita (Bonnie) Bergin, and the first assistance dog organisation, Canine Companions for Independence.

“Bonnie Bergin is legendary for her groundbreaking work with dogs.” Dean Koontz 

President of the Assistance Dog Institute, Dr. Bergin originated the service dog concept and movement, and she has been training dogs to assist people with disabilities for more than thirty years. She knows that dogs have an almost limitless capacity to learn…
1981 – Bonnie set up Canine Companions for Independence to train dogs to help a person with disabilities achieve independence through service team partnerships

1989 – Assistance Dogs International (ADI) was established and Bonnie was voted the founding president of the new organization.

1989 US Justice Department asked Bonnie for help in developing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations regarding assistance dogs. ADA was passed in Congress in 1990.
1991 – Bonnie left CCI to found the Assistance Dog Institute The Assistance Dog Institute was dedicated to both education and research and development of new and better assistance dog methodologies. Results of the Institute’s research is shared with all assistance dog programs so that more disabled individuals can benefit from the independence resulting from this unique working relationship with a dog.
1993  – Bonnie helped assistance dog partners form International Association ofAssistance Dog Partners (IAADP)
1993 – Bonnie created the Assistance Dog United Campaign, a program that provides vouchers to low income individuals with disabilities to get an assistance dog.  

2001 – Bonnie helped seed the beginning of a Euro-Assistance Dog organization
2001 – California Bureau of Private & Post-Secondary Education approved the Institute’s application to become the first college in the world to offer Assoc of Science Degrees in Assistance Dog Education and Human-Canine Life Sciences.
2004 – Bureau of Private Post Secondary & Vocational Education approved the Institute’s Masters Degree in Assistance Dog Education and Human-Canine Life Sciences.
2006 – Bachelor’s Degree in Cynology was approved.
2010 – Bergin Institute was accredited by the national Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) in April 2010 – The Bergin University of Canine Studies’.