April 19, 2024

FBI Honors Albuquerque New Mexico Community Organization with National Award

On Friday, April 19, 2024, FBI Director Christopher Wray presented Assistance Dogs of the West with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for its service to the people of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Receiving the award on behalf of Assistance Dogs of the West was Jill Felice, the founder of the organization. This organization thoroughly trains courthouse and facility dogs for criminal justice settings to ease the stress felt by children and adult victims in the court system, and often aid prosecutors to achieve convictions.

The FBI established the DCLA in 1990 to publicly acknowledge the achievements of those working to make a difference in their communities through the promotion of education and the prevention of crime and violence. Each year, one person or organization from each of the FBI’s 56 field offices is chosen to receive this prestigious award. 

“Our success as both a law enforcement and an intelligence agency hinges on our ability to foster and maintain genuine partnerships with people in all communities,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “People like this year’s Leadership Award recipients not only identify what others need, but they are willing to roll up their sleeves and provide services. They are building bridges and relationships while putting in the work to have hard conversations and find common purpose. They do it out of kindness and compassion with a sincere belief that justice – in its many forms – requires all of us to do the right thing in the right way.”

These dedicated canines provide stress relief and cuddly empathy on the job to the special investigators, victim advocates, prosecutors, district attorneys, and defense attorneys who are involved in the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and alleged crimes against children. They are specially trained and handled by professionals who are educated about communicating and providing services in highly charged emotional situations, such as mass violence incidents, courthouses, and special victims units. Under the Office of Special Victim’s Assistance, the FBI maintains a Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Team (VARDT). ADW has placed Crisis Response Canines with this unit and in doing so the handlers and canines have responded to mass shootings in San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Dallas, Parkland, and elsewhere.

“Over the years, I have had the privilege to witness the growth and stature that Assistance Dogs of the West has achieved through the dedication and creativity of each and every member of our staff. When our clients—whether individuals or agencies—present new needs and challenges, our team is committed to finding answers. Our relationship with the FBI represents a paragon of partnership that has educated us about the intricacies of deployment to Mass Violence Incidences and the courageous work our handlers and canines accomplish. We are proud and humbled.” Says Jill Felice, founder of ADW.

“Assistance Dogs of the West has truly been an asset to FBI Albuquerque and nationwide through their rapid deployment teams,” said Raul Bujanda, special agent in charge of the FBI Albuquerque Division. “This continued partnership is incredibly important to our shared responsibility to the communities we serve, and we thank them for the commitment, kindness, and compassion demonstrated through the work they do.”

Director Wray hosted the 2023 DCLA winners in a special ceremony at FBI Headquarters today April 19th, emphasizing the importance of community partnerships in keeping our shared communities safe. These partnerships – as exemplified by the breadth of the work by the DCLA recipients – have led to a host of crime prevention programs that protect the most vulnerable in our communities, educate families and businesses about cyber threats, and work to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods. Learn more about the Director’s Community Leadership Award program, the FBI’s general outreach efforts, and the Albuquerque Field Office online.

Director Wray with DCLA 2023 Winner
Albuquerque DCLA 2023 K9 Photo