About Us



We help people heal through building meaningful relationships with animals. Through donations and fundraising we are able to offer low fee animal assisted group support & disaster relief services to our community.


Our founding partners came together by chance when Charleen, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, sought out the help of Shawn, a professional dog trainer, when searching for a dog to join her family and support her child’s emotional health.

Shawn began working with Charleen and her Labradoodle, Dakota, in October 2021. Throughout the process of dog training, they realized there were significant parallels between their professional work. Both their professions emphasized healing relationships.

As Dakota continued to progress in his training towards certification as a therapy dog, Charleen and Shawn’s conversations began to evolve into ideas about how they could bridge their two professions and expand their work to serve their community. Soon thereafter, they founded South Bay Animal Connection.



Shawn Harkins
A professional dog trainer who grew up in the South Bay, who, after experiencing several traumatic events throughout his life, he found through service to his community, a sense of love and a deeper level of appreciation for the dogs he interacted with. Shawn loves watching dogs and their owners work together, building their relationships, and overcoming challenges. Shawn believes that dogs teach us to live in the moment.

Humans tend to worry about things out of their control from the past or the future. Dogs live in the moment and teach us to live in the moment, as well. With a lifetime of experience working with dogs, from owning dogs as family pets to learning how to train one of his dogs how to overcome aggressive behavior to training dogs for the film industry, Shawn now gets to share his passion for helping humans and and their dogs strengthen their relationships through his professional dog training services and through South Bay Animal Connection.

Charleen Meyer
A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Torrance, CA, who thrives on connection and community.

Her Labradoodle, Dakota, has been a major source of love and joy for her and her children. Charleen was not expecting to experience such a deeply self-reflective and personal growth-oriented process through building her relationship with Dakota. Realizing that the human-animal connection can dynamically help people heal emotionally, she began to consider ways to offer this opportunity to individuals outside of her practice.


Halona - Therapy dog with South Bay Animal Connection


Halona’s name translates to “Happy Fortune” in Iroquois. Halona has a calming energy that humans and dogs are drawn to. She loves having her chin and ears scratched.

Dakota - Therapy dog with South Bay Animal Connection


Dakota’s mission in life is to love and be loved. His favorite things are when people pet his scruffy fur and to pridefully prance around with palm fronds.



Layla is gentle and sweet and an incredible group leader. She helps us out by making sure the other dogs are following the rules. You might just fall in love with her when she rests her head on your lap.

Laci & Luca

Laci and Luca are siblings and best friends. Lacy has big personality, while Luca has a big smile and calm temperament.

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