A program that trains service dogs for wounded veterans was abruptly kicked out of its offices without warning on two military campuses near Washington, DC, in late October.
Warrior Canine Connection has partnered with the Defense Department since 2009. The program provides veterans with the opportunity to help train service dogs while they’re still puppies. Once the dogs are fully trained, they are placed for life with a wounded service member and their families.
“Our methodology is to target veterans who don’t like going to a hospital. It helps get around the stigma of seeking treatment by training the dogs,” the program’s executive director Rick Yount told Newsweek. Warrior Canine Connection and other programs like it aim to tackle the epidemic of veteran suicides. According to a 2013 study, a veteran committed suicide every hour on average from 1999 to 2010. “This program was significant to the veterans we served. It saved lives,” he said.
But without warning, at 2 p.m. on October 27, Yount was told that Warrior Canine Connection needed to move out of it offices at Fort Belvoir and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center by the end of the day.
“We still don’t know what’s going on,” Yount said. “We’re hoping we can get this resolved. We’re very worried about the patients we were pulled away from.” He said Fort Belvoir’s contract with Warrior Canine Connection doesn’t expire until 2019.
More than 100 service members and their families were served at the facilities. The dogs-in-training arrived in the morning, and veterans made appointments throughout the day to come in and assist in their training. For now, Yount said that the program still runs out of its headquarters in Boyds, Maryland, and at the Menlo Park Campus of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California.
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