K9s For Warriors – the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for American veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or military sexual trauma (MST), as well as a member of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce – will graduate its 400th service dog team today, Feb. 22, and all are invited to attend.
“This month, we’re celebrating our 400th graduate team; we are on par to reach 500 graduates by the end of this year,” said Brett Simon, president of K9s For Warriors. “The success of this program shows that our honorable veterans are truly being saved. While this growth is awe-inspiring, it’s exactly what we prudently planned for.”
This milestone was reached seven years after K9s For Warriors served its first class of veterans. Founded in 2011, Shari Duval began K9s For Warriors to help her son, Brett Simon, recover from his own experience with PTSD. Nearly 30 percent of post-9/11 veterans suffer from PTSD.
In K9s For Warriors’ unique program, veterans mitigate PTSD symptoms using task-centered dog commands taught by professional trainers. The training provided is intended to help veterans reintegrate into civilian society with dignity and independence. Warriors reside on K9s For Warriors’ campus for three weeks and receive 120 hours of instruction with their service dog prior to graduation.
The organization has assisted veterans in 46 states and in more than 150 cities. Graduates of the program improve their lives and reduce their risk for suicide. The service dogs in the program are also given a new “leash” on life: 90 percent have been rescued from high-kill shelters or homelessness.
Once managed from a two-bedroom home, the program has experienced measurable growth since its inception, and now operates from a nine-acre, state-of-the-art facility. At the start of this year, K9s also opened a brand-new training facility near Gainesville named the Gold Family Campus.
The graduation ceremony will take place at the K9s for Warriors headquarters, which is located at 114 Camp K9 Road in Ponte Vedra. For additional information, contact Brianna Ehrhart at Behrhart@K9sForWarriors.org, or call (904) 686-1956.