PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A $2 million grant from the Petco Foundation is helping K9s for Warriors expand to Texas.
The nonprofit, based in Ponte Vedra Beach, will be building a training center in San Antonio -- the home of Petco Foundation -- to be named Petco Foundation Canine Center in honor of the donor.
The grant investment is the largest the foundation has given to K9s for Warriors, which is the "nation's largest service dog provider for disabled veterans struggling with the invisible wounds of war brought on since 9/11."
“We are incredibly grateful and humbled by the Petco Foundation’s transformative gift to our program and their continued support of our nation’s heroes,” K9s for Warriors CEO Rory Diamond said in a release. “This donation will be the cornerstone of our national expansion and will be the difference in our ability to carry out our mission of rescuing dogs and training them to be life-saving service dogs for disabled American veterans.”
K9s for Warriors rescues dogs from high-kill shelters and trains them to help veterans at risk of suicide because of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 20 veterans die by suicide every day, the nonprofit said.
K9s for Warriors has rescued dogs from Florida, Georgia, Texas, California, the Carolinas and more. In 2018, K9s for Warriors rescued 257 homeless dogs and graduated 122 veteran-canine teams. The Petco Foundation investment will help nationally with rescuing and training more service dogs.
“Saving shelter dogs and transforming them into helping heroes to support our nation’s veterans highlights the true potential of these canines and inspires others to see the incredible capabilities of shelter dogs. We are proud to help make K9s for Warriors’ national expansion possible all while helping to save more dogs in Texas,” said Susanne Kogut, president of the Petco Foundation. "We are honored to provide the vital support necessary to assure that more veterans receive a trained canine companion to help them through the challenges they face when they return home to civilian life.”
San Antonio city leaders unanimously approved the partnership between K9s for Warriors and Animal Care Services to lease the ACS property for an initial 10 years.
The training facility being built on the land will focus on larger, hard-to-rescue dogs and 200 ACS pets are expected to work their way through the training to become PTSD service animals throughout the country.
K9s for Warriors currently operates two campuses in Florida, and the expansion is a big boost to the dog rescue aspect of the program.
“The prospect of bringing our national nonprofit to San Antonio is thrilling to us,” Diamond said. “We’re more than ready to help the homeless dogs there find a new purpose as a lifesaving PTSD Service Dog. To achieve that, over the course of the next year, K9s for Warriors will be engaging the San Antonio community to build a base of volunteers and donors to ensure our organization’s success in the Alamo city.”
ACS Director Heber Lefgren said his agency is thrilled to have a partner to support its mission.
"K9s for Warriors has a big heart for these big dogs," Lefgren said, "and we love that they will be saving a life to save another."