Program That Pairs Veterans With Service Dogs Shut Down Without Warning

by Jerriann Sullivan
Images via Instagram/WarriorCanineConnection

Warrior Canine Connection’s contract was scheduled until 2019

Without any warning or explanation, a program that matches service dogs with veterans was kicked off two military bases in the Washington, D.C. area.

“At two o’clock in the afternoon, I received a phone call saying there was a stop work order. There was no explanation whatsoever as to why that was the decision,” Warrior Canine Connection Executive Director Rick Yount told D.C. radio station WTOP. He received that call on Oct. 27 and only had a few hours before his trainers and volunteer puppy raisers were forced out of their offices at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “We’re trying to get answers. Why would — all of the sudden — a program be halted that was serving patients?” Yount asked.

It’s unclear why the program was stopped abruptly, but most people are finding the decision cruel. The group has worked in D.C. since 2009 and had a contract with the military to serve veterans until 2019. Yount isn’t aware of any situations – like a dog biting someone – that would have prompted the immediate stop of services. At the least, folks would like answers as to why the program was halted. “We’ve heard absolutely nothing,” Yount said.

Warrior Canine Connection and programs like it play an essential role in helping veterans recover from the trauma of war. Coming home after enduring unimaginable stress in combat is far from easy. Our soldiers struggle to connect and communicate with their partners, families, and communities after being away. The support a service animal provides makes the transition a bit easier. “By interacting with the dogs as they move from puppyhood to training to adult service dogs, Warrior Trainers benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection,” explained Warrior Canine Connection on its website.

The program also helps veterans struggling with thoughts of suicide. According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans a day commit suicide on average. And that’s a conservative estimate. Other studies put that number at 24 – or one veteran every hour of every day. It’s important we provide our veterans with a variety of care options when they return home. “This program was significant to the veterans we served,” Yount shared. “It saved lives.”

As we celebrate Veterans Day this weekend, it’s important to remember that there’s still a lot more we could be doing to help our veterans. Instead of a Facebook post or a “Support the Troops” bumper sticker, consider calling one of your elected representatives and discussing programs that provide crucial and necessary support to the men and women who risked their lives for our freedom.