about us

since 2001

our history

Loving Animals Providing Smiles (LAPS) began in 2001 through the vision of three individuals who shared a common interest in providing quality animal-assisted interactions through stable, well-trained teams in Napa.

The founding members of LAPS brought together years of volunteer experience performing animal-assisted therapy, professional pet training, as well as professional expertise in education and administration.  LAPS became a 501(c)3 public charity corporation in 2004.

Therapy animals were not new to the Napa, but skilled teams working with difficult and often overlooked clients were.  Teachers and other professionals were comfortable hosting and requesting visits from LAPS, knowing the animals were trained, certified and assessed by behaviorists.  Soon locations in Sonoma and Solano Counites were also requesting services.  The LAPS membership grew and our efforts expanded quickly.

In 2018, Mini Hooves Providing Smiles was created to serve the Nevada County area of northern California, with Penn Valley its home base.  This sister organization uses miniature horses and miniature donkeys as therapy animal partners.  Applying LAPS training, testing, and mentoring as a model, this new adventure has met with great enthusiasm.  We hope to have many MHPS therapy teams in the very near future.  (see more)

how we are different

What makes LAPS different from most animal-assisted therapy groups is our belief that a variety of animals can be beneficial to clients, and that multiple teams performing skilled animal-assisted interactions create additional opportunities for the therapeutic process.

our goals

  • To bring animal-assisted therapy to people in various settings (schools, nursing facilities, hospitals, care homes, etc.)
  • To increase public awareness of the positive effects of animals on health and human development.
  • To train, evaluate and certify animal-assisted therapy teams to increase the number of teams in the community.

our values

  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Quality

mini hooves providing smiles

In 2014, LAPS welcomed a miniature horse into their existing training classes. Kristy and her beautiful mare, Banner, were the first mini horse team to complete the program and become a registered LAPS Animal-Assisted Therapy Team. They were soon followed by Gail and Scout, plus Valerie and Alyssa co-handlers of Reggie, Cimarron and T.C., aka Tiny Cowboy.

These mini teams, along with sweet LAPS kitty teams, began making visits to various assisted living facilities in the Napa area.  These teams became known as the LAPS “Special Unit.” 

Realizing the benefit that these special equines can provide to guests and the community, LAPS specialized their training program just for miniature horses and donkeys.  Unlike predatory animals, such as dogs and cats, horses and donkeys are prey animals and respond differently to various stimuli. With the assistance of our horse savvy LAPS members and other experts, we continue to enhance our Mini Therapy Horse Training Program.

In 2018, the LAPS board officially designated Mini Hooves Providing Smiles (MHPS) as a LAPS program and have partnered with West Coast Equine Sports Therapy, located in Penn Valley, as their primary miniature equine training facility.

Together LAPS and MHPS continue to uphold the highest safety and training standards in order to engage in meaningful visits and activities within our communities.


Carolyn Lenzi
Co-founder Carolyn Lenzi sits on steps outside. In front of her is her brown cocker spaniel, Bailey. Bailey was one of LAPS first therapy dogs.
Carolyn Lenzi and her Cocker Spaniel, Bailey.

In December, 2005, LAPS lost one of our founding members with the untimely death of Carolyn Lenzi. Long-time Napa residents, especially those in the school system, may remember Carolyn from her teaching career at Northwood and Alta Heights Elementary Schools.

LAPS is continuing Carolyn’s commitment to young people and honoring her memory by developing CAPERS (“Children and Pets Enjoy Reading Success”). This program allows LAPS teams who have completed additional specialized training to work one-on-one with children in schools and in after-school programs to improve the child’s reading skills. Carolyn’s love of learning was very apparent to all who knew her, and LAPS is honored to continue her vision with the CAPERS program.

Judi Kannon

Our beloved LAPS president, Judi Kannon, went to rest in December 2019. Our hearts are with her husband Barry, furkid Lew, and all her family and friends in this time of loss. We will honor Judi as she requested, with joyous memories, love, and kindness. We hope that you will join us in celebrating her wonderful life and giving spirit by spreading kindness and love every day.

Former LAPS President Judi Kannon and her Welsh Terrrier
Former LAPS president Judi Kannon and her Welsh Terrier, Lew

Judi was an exceptionally creative and caring individual. She came into LAPS in 2012 with Chloe, her Wheaton Terrier, full of enthusiasm. Marilane shares a memory of the first time Judi went to a visit with Chloe – “Judi sparkled.” At that visit and every visit that followed, at meetings, special events, and classes, Judi was generous, giving, fun-loving, charming, and elegant all in one person. She had such a kind spirit. People and pets adored her. As a new LAPSer, Judi loved how much joy Chloe was bringing to seniors and how much kindness she was receiving in return. In 2016 she started visiting with Lew and a short time later became our President. She worked so hard for Loving Animals Providing Smiles, always wanting to do her best and better. Continuing as a therapy team as well, Judi and Lew spread such joy on all they met. She had this knack of making friends with all our clients, knowing their names and many things about them. The world lost a shining light and heaven gained an angel with her passing.

Judi’s sincere appreciation for LAPS and our volunteers never wavered. She was an important part of the core that keeps LAPS strong. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. The world is a little less bright without Judi, and LAPS has lost a gift with her passing. But we also know how lucky we and our students, members, and clients are to have spent time with Judi and felt the kindness she freely shared. She made such an impact on each of us. As individuals and an organization, Loving Animals Providing Smiles will remember her always. Together we are committed to celebrate her life and example in each visit by making a difference in someone’s life. We can think of no better way to celebrate her legacy than to focus on bringing joy to others.

Judi’s family have posted a remembrance online; you can find it here. LAPS is grateful and honored to have been selected as her memorial charity.

We love you Judi. Thank you for our time together, and until we meet again, Godspeed and God Bless.