Our People



Stephen started his career in the British Army in the Cavalry Regiment the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards as a tank crewman, but also had a love of dogs.  He later trained with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps at 1 Army Dog Training unit in Sennelager Germany as a dog handler where he had a fantastic loyal German Shepard dog named Chevron that really reinforced his love of dogs.

On leaving the services Stephen worked in facilities management for many years and then set up his own heating business in the service and repair of oil-fired appliances and AGA cookers.

As a volunteer he has been involved with many charities local to Dorset where he is a Patron of the Dorset Childrens Foundation and Ambassador at Julia’s House Childrens Hospice as well as at Forest Holme Hospice and the HealthBus Trust.

In addition, Stephen works as an Advisory Board member at a Special Educational Needs organisation which provides a range of educational activities for young adults and is a Trustee of Helping Homeless Veterans UK.

Stephen commented “ I have been following Helpful Hounds for a while now and it is a great Charity that can help change the lives of many families. The objectives of Helpful Hounds fits so closely with my own and I am looking forward, very much to working with the team to provide the opportunity to help more families dealing with Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Acute Anxiety and Physical Disablement through the training of Assistance and Medical Detection Dogs”.



Stuart started his career in the fire service and completed ten years before joining the Police for a further fifteen. One of his roles within the Police Service was Wildlife & Countryside Officer in Surrey. As a result, every issue concerning animal welfare, landed on his desk. This left him with a wide knowledge of both animal behaviour and welfare issues.

A brain injury some years ago, left Stuart in a wheelchair. This also meant leaving the Police Force. Since that time, he has worked with his own Assistance Dog, named Woody.

“I recognised from the start that it was important for my Dog to match my own character as well as being trained to do tasks that help me with my daily life. I could see that Woody had an outgoing character, just like me, and that we could enjoy life’s adventures together”.

Today, I am keen to help others, especially younger people, to benefit from having an Assistance or Therapy Dog. However, at the front of my mind is always that the Dog must fit well with the family or School and the Dog’s welfare is a vital consideration for all.


Anne has been a full-time wheelchair user for many years following a motor bike accident.  She had a long career in the public sector, in both central and local government.  Unfortunately, due to a shoulder injury she had to give up work. 

Anne obtained her own Assistance Dog in 2013 when she found herself in a dark place following the death of her mother. 

“After the death of my mother I became quite withdrawn, but my dog, Lillie, changed all that as she gave me a focus and a reason to get up in the morning.  Lillie helps me by picking things up I have dropped, getting the mail and the phone and getting the washing out of the washing machine.  But most importantly, she gives me the confidence to go out on my own.  And, with my dog by my side, I can go anywhere, even getting the bus into town rather than taking the car.  Lillie is helping to save the planet, one trip at a time!”

“As a result of my own experiences, I am very keen to help other people with all types of disability, have the opportunity that I have had, and change their lives with the help of an amazing dog”.


Sally has a mixture of business and caring responsibilities. She has operated her own catering business as well as, for over 25 years, being involved in market research for a major International Company.

With two very grown up Children, who have families of their own, Sally has volunteered in the Charity sector for the last twelve years and becoming involved with Helpful Hounds at the beginning of 2018.

“Peter and I are now in a situation where we can give back to the community and, having seen the difference that an Assistance or Therapy Dog can make, I am totally committed to helping develop Helpful Hounds so that more young people and Schools benefit”.


Peter spent most of his working life in financial services where he was, first, a Lloyds Broker in London and later the Marketing Manager for a major company in Bournemouth.  Recently, he has run a Consultancy from London and Bournemouth working in the UK, Middle East, and Africa.

Working on a Voluntary basis, as CEO, Peter also is DBS Checked and holds a current First Aid Certificate.

“I believe in giving time and energy to the voluntary sector. For twenty-five years, in London, I was a member of St John Ambulance and ran two Cadet Divisions. This proved more difficult when the family is growing up, but Sally and I are in a better position to give time now.  Recently, it became clear that there was a growing need that was not being met: Young people with Autism, Down’s Syndrome and other emotional issues as well as Physical Disability who would benefit from having an Assistance or Therapy Dog.

Helpful Hounds Assistance Dogs was created from this real need.  I am committed to playing my part in the great team, we have, to develop the full potential of the Charity as well as the young people within the families and Schools that we help”.


Sally worked for several years at the Job Centre as well as for Cherwell Council. During this time, she worked, as a Volunteer for:

  • The Cheshire Home for adults with disabilities
  • Sycamore House, a home for children with Downs Syndrome.

Sally, later, became passionate about the homeless and worked, for over 15 years, in Bath and Bournemouth with street homeless, addicts and those with mental health issues.

Working in her capacity of an Ambassador for Helpful Hounds, Sally is DBS (Enhanced) checked.

Approximately 7 years ago Sally was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and had to give up employment.

“I wasn’t prepared to give up my passion, however.  I went on to found the AOK Rucksack Appeal. A charity devoted to getting the homeless off the street and back into the community. During this time, I learnt a great deal about grants, fund raising and getting “yourself out there” which is a fundamental for any Charity”.

“Last year I obtained my dog Molli who, with the help of Helpful Hounds, I am training to be my therapy dog”.

 “I love the way Helpful Hounds is run and feel that I can help by promoting the Charity and raising funds.  I feel privileged to have been offered this opportunity.  I will use my knowledge and enthusiasm to be both a Trustee and Ambassador”.  

Hannah Fielding, Trustee of Helpful Hounds Charity

From January 30th 2015 until his untimely death on 6th April 2022, Hannah had a partnership with Helpful Hound Hudson. Hudson came to her on 30th January aged 3 years and 9 months approximately.

Hannah has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, which necessitates her having 24/7 care, 365 days a year, for life. She is unable to walk at all and to this end, Hannah is a full time wheelchair user.

“Hudson changed my life for the better beyond recognition, he gave me confidence, he broke down barriers, he was a social ice breaker for me with people and the outside world.

Hudson was my one constant; he was my security and my faithful best friend. He raised my self-esteem, gave me purpose and inspired me to speak up for myself and to advocate for myself and him. Hudson collected my post for me, he picked up things off the floor for me that I had dropped, he took off my gloves and socks etc. Hudson and I starred in a short film A Dogs Life for Helpful Hounds in the very early part of 2020. (Filming was completed before all the National Lockdowns)”.

“I have always been a dog lover, and when Hudson died on 6th April 2022, approaching a year ago to the day (I am writing this on 31 t March 2023) I was determined to give back even more to Helpful Hounds. I help out with fundraising when I can, and was offered a position as a Trustee in Autumn 2022, which I am privileged to fill.”

Hannah helps University Students, by being interviewed about Assistance Dogs or helping out with research. She also enjoys doing training courses in order to increase her knowledge and in order to do more within Helpful Hounds in the future.

In early August 2022, Hannah opened up my heart and home to Mary, an adorable female
West Highland White Terrier (an ex breeding dog) whose owner was looking for a forever
home for her.

Mary is pictured with Hannah.



Matt has always had a passion for dogs, having grown up in the New Forest with Border Collies.  However, his interest turned practical when he became involved with Dog Training just over ten years ago.  Initially, he became involved as a Volunteer with The Labrador Rescue Charity. After that he spent eight years with an Assistance Dog Charity before joining Helpful Hounds at the beginning of 2018.

Matt is also involved with “Paws in Hand” as a Trainer and is part of their Display Team.

As well as attending many seminars on seminars courses and workshops, Matt qualified through The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT) and has specialised in task work training for Assistance and Therapy Dogs. In addition, Matt is DBS Registered and is certified in Dog First Aid as well as Human First Aid.

“I only use the most up to date reward-based training which has been scientifically proven to be the most effective method of training.  This involves toys, food, play, fuss and environmental enrichment.  It is fun for the dog as well as stimulating that help build strong relationships between the Dog and Partner.  This is exactly what adds value to everything we do at Helpful Hounds”


Nicola has owned dogs for many years, her earliest memory being the family dog, a golden retriever, Barney. She has a real love for all dogs but especially, German Shepherds, having had one during the last 10 years. Being an animal lover, Nicola also has a background owning and riding horses, having ridden from an early age.

During the last 5 years, Nicola has been working as an Assistance Dog Trainer, starting as a volunteer Dog Trainer for another charity.

To further her training career, she has attended many professional courses, conferences, seminars, passed various online courses and is consistently studying with the IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Trainers) to develop her professional skills. Nicola also, like Matt, has passed First Aid Courses for both Dogs and Humans and is DBS Checked.

“As Assistance Dog Trainers, we are always developing ourselves so we can be the best trainers we can possibly be, and we always put the welfare of the dogs, high on the list of priorities! “

“I am a passionate Dog Owner and Trainer. Two years ago, I helped to start a new Charity, Helpful Hounds!  I am very lucky, as I love my job, working with some lovely families as well as Schools and, of course, the amazing dogs!  Having witnessed the difference that our Helpful Hounds can have on the family, the Schools and the individuals, I am totally committed”.


I have grown up with a gorgeous Alsatian cross since I was a child. I have a conditions that cause me to pass out and dislocate any joints daily. So the age of 16 I applied for my first Assistance Dog, Alice, who is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever . When I receive Alice I fell in love with training and working with dogs so I went to college and studied Animal Management for a year whilst volunteering for a Assistance Dog charity learning how to train dogs.

Since then I have owner trained my own Medical Alert Assistance Dog, May, who is a lab cross golden retriever. Both of my Assistance Dogs are trained in medical alert and respond to assistance tasks such as picking up dropped items and getting help. They are also both trained in PTSD response and trained to hold my joints down when they spasm and deep pressure therapy to help with the pain. I have helped train lots of dogs to be Assistance Dogs for the last 5 years and enjoy working with lots of different breeds. I use my disability as an advantage when training dogs such as coming up with different ways to train when being disabled. All of my training methods are positive and I enjoy learning the advances in dog training.

Laura Downham Trainer for Helpful Hounds

Unlike many of our Trainers, Laura did not grow up with dogs but always wanted one.  When able her first move was to foster dogs via a rescue centre. It turned out that she absolutely loved dogs and has now fostered over 100 dogs. Laura also adopted a wonderful dog – her first foster, Gail! 

Eventually, Laura worked for a Rescue Centre. Her job was deciding which dogs to take in and where they went. As Laura said, “It was a fantastic experience and enabled me to learn a great deal about dog behaviour”. 

This led to volunteering at a local dog training club She is now an instructor at the training club and take classes for puppies and adult dogs. “I’m extremely lucky to have a fantastic mentor, who has guided me and passed on so much knowledge”. 

Laura is a member of IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Training) and PDTI (Pet Dog Training Instructors) and has earned an instructor’s qualification from each.  

In addition Laura has continued studying and is midway through a 3 year course run by The School of Canine Science. She is also taking Kim Brophey’s L.E.G.S course, which has a different slant on dog behaviour. 

Laura came across Helpful Hounds almost by accident when she met one of our other Trainers in London and decided that she would like to volunteer to help people train their own assistance dogs. “It has been a great experience for me and a pleasure to work with the families: especially when I can witness the changes that take place when a puppy is introduced into a family”.

Laura is pictured with Hershey Helpful Hound who she raised and trained from 9 weeks old until 18 months old. The Labradoodle was chosen because some of our recipients have allergies to dog hair from certain breeds

Dave McIver

Dave brings to Helpful Hounds his experience of working and training Police Dogs for over 30 years, including running the Police Puppy breeding and development programme.

Since leaving the Police Service, Dave has spent the last 10 years working and training pet dogs and their owners, this has provided him with the opportunity to gain valuable experience of working with a broad range of breeds of all ages and delivering training to resolve behavioural and training related problems.

Having been involved in dog training for over 40 years Dave has witnessed the development of dog training methods and the philosophy surrounding it, as a result he is totally committed to using reward based and positive training methods, these methods undoubtedly produce well balanced happy dogs who can deal with all the situations and requirements placed upon them.

Continuing professional development is fundamental, to ensure this Dave undertakes tutoring with the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training (CIDBT), he is a Master Trainer with the Guild of Dog Training (MGoDT), a member of the Dog Safety Executive (Dog SEE), in 2016 he gained a Master of Arts Degree (Professional Practice) in Canine Behaviour and Psychology from the Middlesex University.

Dogs have been a big part of Dave’s life since he was a child and continue to be so to this day.

“Joining Helpful Hounds means that I can use my broad experience to help families that will benefit greatly from the support of a well-trained Assistance Dog that will also be a best buddy to the Human Partner”.

Clare Foss-Smith

Having been brought up in the New Forest, Clare’s family were never without dogs, with her Parents breeding Dalmatians and Labradors as hobby breeders.

Later when living in Australia, there was never a day without a dog around the riding school she ran and, now back in the UK she and her Husband breed Spaniels and Golden Retrievers: Three of the puppies from the last Golden Retriever litter are now in training with families to become Helpful Hounds Assistance Dogs.

Clare and her Husband train Gun Dogs together with their Springer trained to a high level as a Working Gun Dog and their Golden Retriever, Siri, works as a listening dog for Samaritans to provide calmness to detainees in custody and to the homeless. Siri is also training with Helpful Hounds to become an Ambassador/Mentor for our puppies under training.

Clare is now completing a conversion course from Gun Dogs to Assistance Dogs to provide additional support for the families joining our training programme.

“I really enjoy working with Helpful Hounds. Having seen the impact three of our puppies have had on their families, I understand, fully how important the work is”

Vicky Mansfield

Having always been a dog lover, taking part in dog shows with her family pet was so rewarding and gave Vicky so much joy when growing up. This was a window on the future.

Vicky tells us she ventured through life with various career paths, starting work in the world of banking, taking off to go travelling, to becoming a fitness instructor and dancer. This crazy life pace was brought to a slower pace once she had her three children.

Feeling at a bit of a loss being ‘just a Mum’ she started volunteering at the school where her children attended. Vicky really enjoyed the voluntary work and decided to take a course as a teaching assistant, and was employed by the school to assist with SEN children and other emotional needs children within the class. Another pointer to the future!

Whilst very rewarding Vicky’s creative needs were not fully met which prompted the decision to change direction.

Vicky decided that she enjoyed being with dogs: She had always loved dogs and realised she needed to know more about these furry friends.

To date, Vicky has completed courses with Absolute dogs as Pro Dog Trainer and their Geek programs, School of Canine Science – 30 days of Canine Science, as well as Scent for Six, Puppy Lab, Dog Training College programs – Reactivity Specialist, Puppy Specialist, Canine Body Language Specialist, Scent work Specialist, Children and Dogs crash course. Currently, Vicky is working towards her Canine Fitness Academy PT for dogs and Canine Arthritis Management courses to maintain peak physical strength and mental agility.

In addition, Vicky has DBS, Human First Aid and Dog First Aid qualifications.

As someone who is passionate about creating outlets to help dogs take their bonding with their owners to the next level, she has created the “Paws on Board – Dog Surf and SUP” exercise plan that has been loved nationally having been credited in National and Local newspapers, online and TV programs including, This Morning, The One Show and Roman and Martin Kemps Weekend Best to name just a few.

“Combining my life, work and dog experience has led me to the fantastic charity Helpful Hounds where I hope to inspire children while working with their dogs. It feels like the most logical step forward for me and my furry friends to be a part of.”


Kate Plaza: Non Executive Director, Fund Raising

Kate has been in Financial Services for over 23 years. As a Financial Advisor at UBS, she managed over $150 million in assets through building relationships with high-net worth clients and Corporates. She moved to the UK in 2006 and worked with Barclays as well as small businesses to help grow Assets Under Management and grow client relationships. She is currently a Director at a Private fundraising company for tax-alternative investments such as VCTs and EIS/SEIS offerings as well as working in Private Equity in London.

As part of her treatment for complex PTSD and to help with the anxiety around the Pandemic, she brought Jax into her life. Having a Service Animal has been life-saving for her, with Helpful Hounds as an essential part of her recovery. Working closely with Helpful Hounds, she saw an opportunity to put her fundraising skills to work in order to allow other people in need to access the amazing work they do.

Philippa Copleston: Non Executive Director, Strategy and Marketing (And Volunteer Assistance Dog Trainer)

Philippa’s background is Business Strategy, having previously been with top 5 global companies.  Graduating from UCL with a BSc in Psychology, she also attained an MBA and now focusses on philanthropic ventures.


“I am passionate about Helpful Hounds. I am a type one diabetic, myself, with hypo unawareness and insulin sensitivity.  Having a Medical Detection Dog for help meant that I could finally live and travel alone without risk. Of course, Helpful Hounds provides a much broader support, for adults, families with young Children and Schools dealing with Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Mental Issues and Physical disabilities.  However, what is important is the psychological work the Assistance Dogs do to support their human partnerships in dealing with long term conditions”.