ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – K9s for Warriors on Wednesday broke ground on a new service dog training facility.
The Campus for K9 Operations will be located just south of U.S. 1 and Racetrack Road in St. Johns County and will be the largest shelter-to-service dog facility in the country, providing veterinary care and comprehensive training.
The mega kennel will be able to house more than 150 service dogs-in-training.
“We have a three-year waitlist and another thousand applications, so we are going to triple our capacity with the mega kennel,” explained K9s for Warriors CEO Rory Diamond.
.@k9sforwarriors is breaking ground on new facility in Ponte Vedra which will allow more than 150 service dog-in-training to pair up w veterans. Right now there is a 3 year waiting list. This will help reach more vets. Program is expanding to all era veterans. @RoryDiamond @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/Nndn1Ch0Fq— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) August 4, 2021
The goal is to get the dogs into the hands of the veterans who need them most.
“Tragically about 20 veterans per day commit suicide,” said K9s for Warriors Chief Program Officer Paul Mundell. “It’s a national crisis.”
This crisis creates a need to connect more veterans with service animals sooner than later, Mundell said.
“The intervention of providing someone with a service dog has been shown to reduce veteran suicide, to cope with the systems of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma,” Mundell said. “We feel an incredible need to get as many of these dogs paired with veterans as we can.”
The expansion will help speed up the process of connecting veterans with these much-needed dogs.
“This facility will allow us to open up our services to veterans from all eras and really better serve them and start to make end roads in what is, unfortunately, a very long waiting list,” said Mundell. “That essentially more than triples the capacity of K9s for Warriors in Northeastern Florida. That combined with our new training center in San Antonio, Texas, will really allow us to reduce the waiting list and serve more veterans.”
Previously available to those who served in the military post-9/11, K9s For Warriors will now begin to accept applications for a service dog from any veteran experiencing service-connected symptoms of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma.
“We created spots for Vietnam era, Gulf War era, Panama and all those wars, so they have a space and a home and a place in our world and we can help them recover,” Diamond said. “It’s critically important that we stop veteran suicide across the country, and suicide does not have an age problem, it has a care and love problem.”
Diamond said there’s a huge spike in Vietnam-era veteran suicides. With the program previously serving 9/11 era veterans, K9s for Warriors has paired nearly 700 vets with service dogs. Now the hope is to reach even more with the expansion.
The new facility is expected to be completed in the spring of next year.
Representatives of The Players Red Coats presented K9s For Warriors with a $15,000 check during the groundbreaking ceremony. This is part of The Players Championship’s commitment to supporting Northeast Florida nonprofit organizations that serve military members, veterans and their families.