Why Was Warrior Canine Connection For Veterans & Service Dogs Abruptly Halted At Two Locations Near Washington D.C.

For close to 100 years, November 11th has been a sacred time for Americans to remember members of the military that have selflessly served our country.

Sadly, this past Veterans Day, which marked the 99th year of commemoration, is being remembered by some for another reason because of a questionable decision made late last month to abruptly halt operations of a program that prepares service dogs for wounded veterans in two military campuses near Washington D.C.

Since 2009, the Warrior Canine Connection has partnered with the Defense Department to provide veterans with the opportunity to assist in the training of puppies into service dogs. Once fully trained, the dogs are then placed for life with wounded warriors and their families.

But suddenly, and without explanation, that stopped on October 27, 2017, when Warrior Canine Connection Executive Director Rick Yount received a call advising that his trainers and puppy raisers at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center were to vacate their offices immediately.

A report WTOP later indicated that a letter complaining about sick dogs at the facility was sent to the firm managing the contract for Warrior Canine Connection. Concerns were also raised about the qualifications of the organization’s dog trainers.

An independent veterinarian was then brought in, and those issues were thought to be resolved.

According to WTOP, Walter Reed National Medical Military Center subsequently announced that it parted ways with the non-profit organization because its contract did not give the hospital enough oversight over the program. As a result, Walter Reed plans to restructure its Canine Assisted Therapy program before the government contract becomes available for bids again.

No matter what happens with the contract, Yount told WTOP, “We’re going to continue serving veterans with the dogs in this program. We can’t stop. We know it’s invaluable.”

Warrior Canine Connection, which has touched an estimated 4,000 service members and veterans, was designed to help veterans recover from the trauma of war while also tackling the epidemic of veteran suicides.

While critical of the management at the non-profit, Matt Moores, a retired Marine who was both treated at Walter Reed and worked for Warrior Canine Connection before stepping down in August, also said Warrior Canine Connection needs to be back at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed.

“Our wounded soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, they deserve to have these dogs,” he said.

For now, Yount said that the program still runs out of its headquarters in Boyds, Maryland, and at the Menlo Park Campus of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California.

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