Asheville Fire Department announces pilot program to bring facility dog to local station

Denali the fire dog
Asheville firefighter Kameron Buchanan welcomes new facility dog, Denali.


The Asheville Fire Department is excited to announce a partnership with Black Mountain-based Paws & Effect to integrate a facility dog, Denali, into one of its local fire stations.


Traditionally, dogs were used to provide companionship and safety for horses used to transport equipment from a station to a fire. While horses are no longer a day-to-day necessity for firefighters, dogs remained a cultural touchstone and common component of firefighter’s station life. Following similar efforts in Fairfax, Va., and Toledo, Ohio, a casual conversation between Asheville firefighters drove an effort to integrate a public facing facility dog into a fire station here. Favorable surveys were received from a local fire station over the summer, ensuring that they could provide a facility dog regular handlers across shifts, consistent opportunity for exercise and socialization, all without impacting firefighters’ primary responsibilities.


“We were interested in a dog that was friendly, well-mannered, easy to train and happy to engage with all firefighters across shifts,” said AFD Project Liaison Jessica Willis. “We were fortunate to identify Paws & Effect, which was able to accommodate our request.”


Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, Paws & Effect raises, trains and places service dogs with disabled people who have complex disabilities. As is typical, however, some dogs are deemed unsuitable for service work, which was the circumstance for Denali.


“When we were approached to bring this project into reality, we knew it would be special,” said Paws & Effect Executive Director Nicole Shumate. “Firefighters and paramedics are the people who step in during tragedies and emergencies; this is a way to extend a thank you for the difficult work they do. We are honored to bring a bit of joy and fun to station life by way of a facility dog.”


Paws & Effect will continue to own the facility dog being placed in Asheville. In addition to providing routine and the possibility of emergency veterinary care, crates, beds, toys and regular doggy daycare, Paws & Effect is responsible to provide an additional liability insurance policy. These expenses will exceed $10,000.


For more information, please contact Asheville Fire Department Project Liaison Jessica Willis at or 828-593-0028.