pet news

september 16, 2015

Rescued Dogs to Serve Veterans with PTSD

Arizona Animal Welfare League Partners with Air Force Veteran to Launch "Project 22”
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PHOENIX – The Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA (AAWL & SPCA) has partnered with a military veteran who is a dog trainer to help both veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and homeless dogs.

The shelter’s Lead Dog Trainer, Eric Wolfe, recently asked AAWL & SPCA to partner with him on an initiative called “Project 22.” Under the project, Wolfe is selecting dogs exclusively from the shelter to train as service animals for people suffering from PTSD, primarily military veterans.

service dog named murphy
Photo by AAWL & SPCA
Murphy, a 10-month-old Dutch Shepherd mix, is one of the dogs rescued from euthanasia by AAWL & SPCA and selected for training as a service dog by Project 22.

Wolfe, who has PTSD and utilizes a service dog, established a non-profit organization called Freedom K9 Rehab to apply his dog training skills to help both shelter dogs and vets.

Project 22 Mission

On average, 22 military veterans commit suicide each day; for this reason, Wolfe chose the name “Project 22.”

At the same time, there are hundreds of homeless dogs euthanized every day.

The mission of Project 22 is to reduce both of these numbers by pairing professionally-trained rescued animals with veterans in need of a service dog.

How it works

● Wolfe identifies animals at the shelter that are good candidates for service-dog training through a rigorous behavioral evaluation.

● During the initial phase of training, the dogs stay with Wolfe and his staff to establish foundations of training, including six weeks of concentrating on basic obedience commands: sit, stop, stay, etc.

● During this period, Wolfe will bring the dogs to AAWL & SPCA every Saturday to work with select youth participating in the shelter’s Teen Tracks program. On October 10, he will introduce the program to those teens and start them on the basics of training a service dog.

The next phase includes:

● Identifying a veteran who is a good fit for the dog and will become its handler. Applicants are invited to meet with potential service dogs and in most cases, there will be 4 or 5 dogs that are ready for a “meet and greet.”

● After pairing, weeks 7 through 12 will focus on the 10-point “Canine Good Citizen” training, which involves sitting for both distance and time, getting groomed, being greeted by strangers, walking through crowds, etc.

● Weeks 13 through 18 will focus on training the dog to perform its service in public situations like restaurants, malls and/or other crowded venues.

● Training and support can last up to two years before the team of veteran and dog “graduate” from the program.