Some San Antonio Stray Dogs to Be Trained to Help Veterans - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Some San Antonio Stray Dogs to Be Trained to Help Veterans

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    Some San Antonio Stray Dogs to Be Trained to Help Veterans
    NBC 5 News

    Some stray dogs in San Antonio will be getting a life-changing job opportunity -- helping veterans.

    The San Antonio Express-News reports under a new city plan, K9s for Warriors, an organization based in the Jacksonville, Florida, area, will expand to Military City, U.S.A., culling stray dogs from the city's rescue shelters and training them to become service dogs for veterans.

    "I think we're knocking out two birds with one stone here," said City Councilman Manny Palaez, who led the effort for the city. "We're moving the dogs that need to be moved out of these shelters into the loving arms of veterans who need these kinds of partners. . These dogs are going to be saving the lives of veterans, and these veterans are saving the lives of these dogs. That's symbiosis."

    The city will lease land on the West Side next to Animal Care Services' main campus to K9s for Warriors for $1 per year. The organization expects to build a kennel there, where it will treat dogs and prepare them for the training they will receive in Jacksonville.

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    Veterans from across the country can apply for the dogs, said Brett Simon, the organization's president, and some in San Antonio have already received them.

    The applicants go through a screening process, and the organization provides dogs to those who have served after 9/11 and have diagnosed health issues that include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or mobility impairment, and issues stemming from sexual assault.

    Palaez said the program is mutually beneficial because San Antonio has an abundance of large stray dogs -- he called them the "San Antonio Brown Special" -- who are often harder to place than puppies or small dogs. The K9s for Warriors' program uses those kinds of large dogs.

    Heber Lefgren, director of ACS, said the city takes in about 31,000 stray dogs and cats every year. It has dramatically increased its live-release rate, from around 32 percent in 2011 to 92 percent now, in large part because of these kinds of partnerships. The remaining 8 percent include animals who are euthanized for health reasons and others who are put down because no one adopts them and the city has run out of space. The new program will help some of the most at-risk dogs, he said.

    "That is one of the reasons why partnerships like this are so beneficial," Lefgren said. "Because that large dog is the harder dog to place in San Antonio."

    The arrangement grew from a friendship between Palaez and Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond, who is also the nonprofit organization's CEO. The plan is to build up to 200 or 300 dogs moving into the program every year, officials said.

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    While Palaez heralded the new partnership, he said residents need to realize that it doesn't represent a panacea. There are still dogs in need of adoption at the city's shelters.

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