JULY 13th in Seattle, WA is our 2nd annual Raise a Pint for Service Dogs event!

About Us

A well-trained service dog can make real and meaningful change

A well-trained service dog can make meaningful change in the life of someone with a disability, helping them to live actively and independently. Unfortunately, there are many individuals with disabilities who would benefit from a service dog but face significant obstacles in trying to obtain one. Their challenges can include organizations that only service specific populations, geographies, and dog breeds, as well as long waiting lists within these organizations due to an overwhelming need and few resources.

Our mission: Atlas fundamentally expands access to assistance dogs. We support people with disabilities to train and certify their own service dog using positive, ethical training methods. At Atlas, we believe anyone who would benefit from a qualified assistance dog should be able to have one.

To fulfill this mission, Atlas addresses unmet needs by helping people train their own service dog at an affordable cost without relying on an organization to provide them with a dog. Atlas is bringing a quality of training and rigorous certification standards to the individual that was previously available only through larger organizations.

Our model: Atlas supports the individual who wants to and is able to be an active part of training their own dog. Our Atlas Team Facilitators are skilled volunteers who assist clients who are working to train their own service dog, either entirely on their own or with a trainer. The facilitators guide the team (client and their dog) through their final nine months of training, working with them to refine the dog’s performance, develop the dog’s skills in mitigating the client’s disability, and prepare the team to pass our public access test and work with confidence in all settings they frequent.

We are also working to address a critical shortage of qualified service dog trainers through a comprehensive online program designed to prepare experienced dog trainers to train service dogs and work with people with a wide range of disabilities. Our courses provide training related to dogs, working with people with disabilities, and training for skills to mitigate the client’s disability.

Our Values

Humane, ethical treatment of dogs and people

We treat all people and all dogs ethically, compassionately, and as individuals. We partner with trainers, doctors, patients, and researchers to ensure that we employ the most ethical, scientific, and effective training approaches available with each person and each dog in our program.



We promote inclusion and diversity. We welcome and seek out anyone who can benefit from our services. We proudly serve people of every race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, and military status. We also welcome dogs of any breed (and mixed breeds) as long as they have the temperament and the physical ability to be an assistance dog.

Honesty, integrity, transparency

We value open and straightforward communication. We earn the trust of our constituents by delivering on our promise of providing an expanded pool of highly-skilled, certified assistance dogs. We have high standards in everything we do and set the highest bar for our certification process. What we do matches what we say. Our decisions and finances are fully documented and accurately reported.


We are well organized and well managed. We follow accepted best practices for management, accounting, and documentation. All communication from our organization helps to convey the message that Atlas Assistance Dogs is a serious, competent, and professional organization.

Boldness and creativity

Our heads and our hearts are fully engaged in exploring ideas, techniques, and technologies that enhance our ability to fulfill our mission. 

Our Staff

Molly Neher

Director of Operations and Programs

Molly was introduced to the world of service dogs when she became in need of one herself after developing a severe seizure disorder while in college. Her service dog Reid was partially trained in a prison program, but Molly continued most of his training on her own with the help of a private trainer to ensure Reid would properly fit her needs. As a college student, Molly became a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and for service dog education and access. She has seen first-hand the benefits and the empowerment a service dog can bring, and it is her strong belief that people do not thrive despite their disabilities, but rather with them.

Throughout her college years, she worked with other local disability rights organizations and also worked to make her campus more accessible to students with disabilities through the leadership and advocacy group she was part of. With Reid by her side she graduated with a B.S in bio-anthropology and psychology.

Molly joined Atlas’ board of directors in 2017 as a means to continue her advocacy efforts and help more people like herself who could benefit from a service dog. In August of 2018, she became Atlas’ first employee and is Atlas’ Director of Operations and Programs. In this role she manages all day to day operations as well as all being the primary point of contact for all of our trainers, clients and volunteers. She maintains a non-voting membership on our board and is involved many efforts related to marketing, fund development, academy, outreach and communications. Molly is also a certified Peer Supporter and Atlas Team Facilitator.

Our Advisory Board

We are honored to have these industry experts as advisors to the work we do.

a blond woman with 3 small dogs on her lap

Mikkel Becker

Lead Trainer, Fear Free pets and fear free happy homes

Mikkel Becker is the lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. She specializes in reward based training and behavior modification with dogs, cats and occasional other species, including horses, pigs and orangutans. 
Mikkel is a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP), a graduate of the rigorous San Francisco SPCA Dog Training Academy with Jean Donaldson with a certificate in training and counseling (CTC), a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA), a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and a Certified Dog Behavior Counselor (CDBC). Mikkel also majored in communications and minored in sociology at Washington State University. 
Mikkel is regularly featured in publications that include USA Today, today.com, Woman’s Day, Real Simple and a nationally syndicated newspaper pet column. She was the resident trainer at vetstreet.com and now is the lead animal trainer at fearfreehappyhomes.com and fearfreepets.com Mikkel has coauthored six books, including the most recent release, From Fearful to Fear Free. 
Mikkel lives in Spokane, WA with her daughter, Reagan and the love of her life- a Puggle named Indiana Bones. The rest of the critter crew includes an adorably naughty rescue pug mix, Otis, a rescued stray cat- Mylo, and a cuddly, teddy bear of a horse, Chili. 

Ken Ramirez

EVP & Chief Training Director, Karen Pryor clicker training

Ken Ramirez is the EVP and Chief Training Officer for Karen Pryor Clicker Training where he helps to oversee the vision, development and implementation of training education programs. Previously, Ken served as EVP of animal care and training at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. A 40+ year veteran of animal care and training, Ramirez is a biologist and behaviorist who has worked with many zoological organizations and dog programs throughout the world.

Ken’s work has included guide dogs, service dogs, law enforcement, search and rescue, film and television, and countless private clients. He is past president of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association and has been active in various leadership positions within IMATA for over 30 years. He hosted two successful seasons of the TV series Talk to the Animals. Ramirez authored the book ANIMAL TRAINING: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement in 1999 and most recently The Eye of the Trainer in 2020. He taught a graduate course on animal training at Western Illinois University for 20 years. He currently teaches at ClickerExpo every year, offers hands on courses and seminars at the Karen Pryor National Training Center (the Ranch), and teaches online courses through Karen Pryor Academy. 

a human with short blond hair wearing a red shirt and green glasses, leaning into a grey cat sitting by them.

August Stockwell

Educator and Consultant

August Stockwell, PhD (any pronouns) is a neurodiversity educator and consultant with a passion for disability justice and accessible mental health supports. They were the Founder of Upswing Advocates, an LGBTQ2IA and neurodiversity focused nonprofit organization, and have 15 years of experience educating professionals (including animal trainers) on a variety of topics related to culturally-sensitive practice. As a neurodivergent, queer, and non-binary human, August works from a community member perspective, as well as from a researcher and educator perspective.

August holds a PhD in Behavior Analysis and a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Missouri. They live in Chicago with their partner, cat, and two dogs, and love spending time in nature, meditation, and capybaras. 

Our Board

Jennifer Kolar


Jennifer has been surrounded by animals and active in their training and rehabilitation since she was a child. Just as she’s seen many a stray or shelter dog through fear and reactivity issues, they have seen her through hard times too.

Jennifer recognizes that working with service dog teams is at least as much about the person as about their animal. She is deeply committed to positive, ethical treatment of both dogs and people. She is excited to be a co-founder of Atlas Assistance Dogs and to redefine the notion of service dog training to benefit as many people as possible.

Jennifer has worked as a leader in technology firms for over 20 years and is Vice President of Engineering at her current company. She has volunteered with environmental, animal, and human rights organizations throughout her life. She is a volunteer at the Seattle Animal Shelter. She has more than 10 years’ experience as a professional service dog trainer and instructor.

Jennifer has a BS in Applied Mathematics in Engineering and an MS in Astrophysical, Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences. She is a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner, Certified Behavioral Adjustment Training Instructor, Atlas Certified Trainer, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), Diabetic Alert Dog Certified Trainer, and a Certified Peer Supporter.

man in blue shirt

Mark Nowicki


Mark is a storyteller. Whether writing essays or analyzing datasets, he finds joy in using his skills to “put the pieces together” into something meaningful. After a consulting engagement with a disability group, he learned that disability advocacy is a story that needs telling and re-telling. He understands the life-changing difference access can provide, and he understands that not all individuals have that same access. Combined with his love for animals, Atlas’s mission became particularly important to Mark. Being part of the Atlas board has been a way for Mark to use his love of storytelling to expand life-changing access.

Mark now works as a software engineering, building world-class products and services. This technical background, combined with his prior business background, provides him with experience in all areas ranging from market research to data analysis to technology infrastructure. Most specifically, this work provides Mark with the skills to push an organization further through both strategic and technical means.

Mark has a BA in English and is currently pursuing an MS in Computer Science.

Erin Petersen


From a young age, Erin has been interested in mathematics and finding order in the chaos of data. As a lifelong dog owner, Erin has always been amazed by the impact that a dog can make. Working with Atlas has allowed her to combine her passion for equity, servant leadership, and animal welfare with her love for solving problems using data analytics.

Erin grew up in Minnesota. She studied mathematics at Macalester College in St. Paul and moved to Seattle to pursue graduate school at the University of Washington and has enjoyed living in the Pacific Northwest ever since. Erin currently works as a data scientist at The Boeing Company.

Erin has a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Applied Mathematics.

Vicky Nann


Vicky is a communications professional and life-long learner who has a strong desire to serve. She specializes in helping individuals and organizations build their brand and has both corporate and nonprofit experience. Vicky has always been a dog-lover, and she is eager to do more advanced training with her own dog Cynar.

Vicky is honored to help support the mission of Atlas Assistance Dogs. As an experienced editor, writer, and public speaker, she is excited about the opportunity to join others in spreading the word about Atlas’ programs to help more people lead more satisfying lives.

Vicky holds a BA in the Classics from the University of Toronto, an MBA with specializations in marketing and organizational behavior from The Ohio State University, and an MA in Germanic Studies for the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is currently a PhD student in the School of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University.

A woman with two small white dogs

Jacqueline Kinnaird

Jacqueline has a great love for Maltese dogs; they love to show affection, are the best cuddlers ever, and are amazingly quick learners when it comes to training.  Storm and Jovi are fondly known as her boys.  Jacqueline is also passionate about all things marketing and spent a large part of her career, over 20 years, in corporate marketing.

Jacqueline worked for over 15 years at J&J Consumer South Africa, holding several senior positions in Marketing driving brand growth strategies and building iconic brands.  After completing an Organizational Leadership Program at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Jacqueline focused on developing her leadership skills in corporate marketing. She went on to head up the J&J Channel Marketing division developing and leading several brand and category growth initiatives for J&J and its trade customers.  After a long career with J&J SA, Jacqueline left to join Indigo Brands SA, where she helped establish their Trade Marketing Division, responsible for all brand go-to-market strategies.

In 2020 Jacqueline relocated to the USA with her husband and focused on taking some time off, getting to know her new home, and hiking in the fantastic national parks of Washington.  Today she works privately with small businesses to develop their business strategy and digital marketing plans.  She is excited about the opportunity to use her experience and skills in helping to expand Atlas’ footprint and join the quest to make service dogs more accessible to those that need them.

Mike Kolar

Mike discovered the impact of service dogs very personally when his daughter trained a service dog for him to help mitigate his degenerative arthritis. With his service dog Turner at his side, Mike has not only been able to meet his day-to-day needs, he has maintained and regained the ability to do the physical activities that give him the most joy. This has strengthened Mike’s belief that all people should be able to live full lives, regardless of their disability. Mike is a committed advocate for people with disabilities and for the service dogs who help them thrive. Being part of the founding board of Atlas has been an exciting opportunity to do just that.

Mike retired in 2016. Through a career as marketing and proposal writer for several technology companies, Mike has developed strong communication and project management skills. Prior to working as a proposal writer, he worked as a grant writer for the city of Spokane, Washington and as a case manager helping get people off the street and into jobs.

Mike has a BA in English and a MS in Sociology.

Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

Timothy is passionate about technology in our society. However, for many technology can be an impediment if we assume that it is the answer to everything when many are not able to engage with it. What about those who cannot use all that tech brings due to impairments either physical or mental? His engagement with service animals came from his own mother, a long-time supporter of assistance animals in England. It has been heightened by interacting with partially sighted and hard of hearing individuals and how service dogs can improve their lives immeasurably. He aims to bring some if his skills to the board to expand the footprint for Atlas Assistance Dogs both in scope and geography.

Timothy has spent most of his career in Travel and Technology most frequently in and around airlines. He has been an entrepreneur, investment analyst and founding team member of some notable companies in tech, such as Expedia. Today, he provides consulting services to different companies both in start up phase and amongst mature businesses.

Timothy is a recognized analyst and commentator in Aviation and Travel with a focus on Technology. He is frequently called on to speak at conferences. He has published several books in this subject area. Further he has authored 4 patents. Timothy was educated in the United Kingdom and now lives in Kirkland. He is a surrogate parent to a boisterous Fox Red Labrador. 


Sasha S. Philip

Sasha first connected with Atlas as a client, and is now part of its leadership. She grew up in Germany as the daughter of Indian immigrant parents, arriving in the USA as a foreign exchange student. It was not until adulthood that she began to identify and seek help for her mental health challenges.

Sasha discovered Atlas Assistance Dogs in 2022, when she enrolled in the Client Certification Program. She then went on to become an Atlas Team Facilitator, as well as a volunteer trainer for Brigadoon Service Dogs. Sasha’s personal experiences have led her to recognize the enormous need for service dog training support and the invaluable service Atlas provides to owner-trainers. Sasha looks forward to lending her leadership and outreach skills to the Atlas Board.

Sasha has a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science from Vassar College, and a J.D. from Tulane University. She is currently a dispute resolution professional in private practice, and owns her own business. She has been recognized in alternative dispute resolution, has held adjunct faculty/lecturer positions at Seattle University School of Law and University of Washington School of Law, and has been a planning committee member for the annual Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference since 2014.

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