K9s For Warriors, the nation’s largest provider of trained service dogs to military veterans, received Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Back the Blue Award on Thursday, Oct. 7, for its dedication to the state’s first responders.
In celebration, K9s For Warriors donated a station dog to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) to mitigate the stress and anxiety commonly found in dispatch operators, first responders and police officers.
The Back the Blue Award honors law enforcement officers, citizens and organizations that have taken extraordinary steps to forge positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
The campaign recognized K9s For Warriors for its station dog program, which reallocates trained service dogs that either completed their time paired with a veteran or are identified as having a temperament better suited for a station dog environment.
“The brave men and women of Florida law enforcement often find themselves in extremely stressful and dangerous situations,” said Moody. “I am so thankful for the work being done by K9s For Warriors to help connect law enforcement heroes with K9s to help them heal and cope with some of the invisible wounds inflicted while protecting Floridians. I look forward to watching the station dog program grow and help even more members of our law enforcement community.”
Founded in 2011, K9s For Warriors has rescued more than 1,300 dogs across the country and paired nearly 700 veterans with trained service dogs to mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma. The nonprofit’s station dog program provides homes for trained dogs that will no longer be paired with veterans by placing them with police and fire departments.
JSO’s adoption of Buster, a yellow Labrador retriever, marks the eighth station dog donated by K9s For Warriors and the seventh in Florida.
“We are dedicated to supporting our nation’s heroes, and while our focus is on helping military veterans overcome mental trauma, we started the station dog program to extend that support to the heroes who continue to serve our communities,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. “We are honored to be recognized by Attorney General Moody, and we are excited to partner with JSO in bringing Buster to their department as a way to help relieve the pressure our first responders face every day.”
After completing the K9s For Warriors puppy raiser training program, K9 trainers designated Buster as better suited for station dog duty. The nonprofit worked directly with JSO to evaluate the station environment and identify personnel who would be responsible for Buster’s care. The station dog received preliminary training to recognize signs of anxiety, and he will spend time in JSO’s dispatch center to recognize signals of stress and intervene.
“We are continually looking for innovative resources to support our members who help others every day,” said Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams. “While dogs and their special bond with humans are not new to any of us, bringing them into our workplace to help our employees is a positive and exciting new approach. I am looking forward to expanding our team through this partnership with K9s For Warriors that will be life changing for every member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.”
In addition to JSO, K9s For Warriors has partnered with first responder departments across Florida to provide station dogs, including the Atlantic Beach Police Department, Jacksonville Beach Police Department, Neptune Beach Police Department, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
To learn more about K9s For Warriors or to support the nonprofit’s programs, go to www.k9sforwarriors.org.