Members of the K9s For Warriors team broke ground on its Campus for K9 Operations during a ceremony on Aug. 4, which once built will be the largest rescue dog training facility in the world.
Phase 1 of the project is expected to be done by March 2022 and the entire campus is projected to be completed and fully operational in March 2023.
“This has been like a rocket ship of love and support,” K9s For Warriors CEO Rory Diamond said. “Our job is to do it the right way every time and every day.”
Once completed, the training facility located just South of the U.S. 1 and Race Track Road intersection in Ponte Vedra will join the Shari Duval Campus and National Headquarters in Ponte Vedra, as well as campuses in Gainesville and the soon to open San Antonio, Texas facility.
According to Diamond, there are also talks going on to possibly open facilities in two other states.
“We have urgency, because we have a long wait list and veteran suicide is what we’re fighting,” Diamond said.
According to a press release, roughly 20 veterans die from suicide each day.
One of the major reasons for the construction of the “mega kennel” is to help with the long waiting list, which currently takes veterans about four years to get into the program.
Having more room for dogs to train means more dogs are then able to be paired with veterans.
“Everybody loves their dog, and if you’re a good American, everybody loves our veterans,” Diamond said. “You put those two together and it’s just magic that you can’t match.”
The Campus for K9 Operations will be capable of housing more than 150 service dogs for training at one time.
The primary purpose for the facility will be to train the dogs, which usually takes about six to eight months.
“We have an entire procurement team that scourers the country looking for dogs,” Diamond said. “We have a network of about 100 rescues that also help us, and we’ve got great partnerships with places like the Jacksonville Humane Society and San Antonio Animal Control.”
By being able to train more dogs, it will allow the K9s For Warriors to begin offering its services to all veterans instead of just those post 9/11.
“There has been a huge spike in Vietnam era suicide, and we felt like we had to get off the sidelines to help in that fight,” Diamond said. “The stories from the warriors in the program are so overwhelming and so beautiful. We’re just trying to do our part.”
K9s For Warriors founder Shari Duval died from cancer in February, but it was obvious during the ceremony that her spirit and memory continues to live on.
“She knew the mega kennel was coming and I’m sure she would have loved to see it today,” Diamond said.
Since Duval founded the organization in 2011, nearly 700 warriors have been matched with dogs and more than 1,300 dogs have been rescued.
Members of THE PLAYERS Championship were on hand and presented Diamond with a check for $15,000 as part of its Match4Military grant initiative.
“The timing of it was just perfect with them having the groundbreaking,” 2022 Tournament Chairman Matt Welch said. “They’ve done a great job of leveraging the community and it’s amazing what they do. Just a great program all the way around.”
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