Shelter dogs are gaining a new leash on life from U.S. military veterans. K9s For Warriors, an organization based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is pairing shelter dogs with veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic injuries. The group rescues dogs, mostly from kill shelters, and trains them as service canines to live with struggling veterans, which helps them and their families’ transition back to civilian life.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 11 to 20 percent of U.S. veterans who served in missions to Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered from PTSD in a given year. The mission of K9s For Warriors is “to empower our heroes to begin their recovery with their new service dog.” (See veterans talk about their service dogs in this National Geographic video).
Other service members and their families have been able to adopt military working dogs. At the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, about 2,500 military working dogs were trained to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Former handlers, as profiled in National Geographic’s June 2014 cover story, and in rare instances, their families, have been allowed to adopt these hero dogs.