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Healing Species Violence Prevention Compassion Education Program





With the help of rescued dogs nobody else wanted, Healing Species’ trained instructors to provide twelve classroom lessons in compassion/humane education and violence prevention to elementary, middle, and high school students in high poverty, high risk schools, and incarceration facilities, empowering children to speak up and change things for themselves and others. Since 2000, instructors and dogs have helped more than 100,000 students in over 150 schools and sites in South Carolina and in states where our Satellite Chapters operate. Parent classes are offered at each school or site.


  • Target Settings: Low-income urban setting
  • Target Groups Served: Low-income/impoverished communities, members of minority groups,and elementary, middle, high, and at-risk students
  • Districts Served: Richland, Orangeburg, Calhoun, Lexington, Dorchester, Berkley, Charleston, Pickens, Greenville

Research and Evaluation

What national or other research was considered during the development of this program/initiative? Describe the evidence that shows the program or initiative is relevant and effective.

Healing Species was founded following Cheri Brown Thompson’s research during law school with inmates on death row. Cheri wanted to find connections in their social histories to draw similarities on what may lead to incarceration and violence warranting being placed on death row. Her research revealed two stark similarities: each inmate had been abused as a child, and prior to committing their offense inflicted abuse on an animal. Cheri always knew she wanted to impact the cycle of violence and eventually prevent it all together. Based on her research she developed the Healing Species Curriculum aimed at intercepting childhood abuse and neglect through providing strategies to heal and overcome through learning about compassion and through the love of rescued dogs--dogs who have overcome their own histories of abuse and live to tell the tale through giving love to others.

Healing Species Accomplishments:

  1. Healing Species listed on SAMSHA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), July 2012
  2. 2010 South Carolina Department of Education approved the Healing Species Program as a “Propitious New Model Program” for at-risk students
  3. Meets all SC Dept. of Education Standards for Health and Safety and Character Education, plus additional standards in English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Visual Art
  4. Healing Species’ outstanding outcomes were published in the Journal of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, January 2008


Independent Studies on Healing Species reveal the following outcomes:

  • Choice making using empathy increase by 42%
  • General aggression, retaliation aggression, and total aggression combined decrease by 62%
  • Out of school suspensions decrease by 55%
  • Marijuana Use decreases by 75%
  • Academic performance increases over ALL areas (published in Journal of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice – January 2008).

Evaluation is conducted with the following methods:

  • Data collected through pre/post surveys as well as satisfaction surveys handed out to students, teachers, and school administration
  • Analyzed and compiled through comparison of pre and post data to show overall effectiveness


  • Annual Cost: $85,000
  • Funding Sources: Grants, sponsorships, fundraisers, individual donors Staffing needs: Program Coordinators, Instructors, Grant Writers, Part-time Animal Care Assistant
  • Staffing Needs: n/a
  • Infrastructure/Equipment Needs: Classroom supplies, dog care supplies, canine transportation to and from sites (doggie van), office supplies, service project/field trip supplies
  • Partner Organizations: PetHelpers of the Lowcountry, Grove Park Pharmacy, SI Group, AT&T Pioneers, Diamond Dog Food, Parrish Family Foundation, Lipscomb Family Foundation, SC Youth ChalleNGe Academy, Central Carolina Community Foundation, SC Department of Public Safety, Department of Juvenile Justice, South Carolina Department of Corrections, Richland County Discretionary Funds, Mary Seibert Charitable Trust, Doris Day Animal Foundation, Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation

Contact Information

Cheri Thompson, Founder and President Healing Species
Links to other information, i.e., news articles, videos, etc.: