Operation Kindness shelter dogs may be trained as service animals under new program

Shelter dogs who don't graduate from the training program will still be available to be adopted out in the community

Operation Kindness

Some shelter dogs rescued by Operation Kindness may soon be trained to become service animals for people with disabilities.

The shelter announced a partnership this week with Oregon-based Dogs for Better Lives to identify dogs with the ideal temperament and ability to become service animals and then place them into a training program where they will learn how to become a hearing assistance dog, autism assistance dog, or facility dog.

Through the program "From Shelter to Service Dog," the dogs will be placed with an Operation Kindness foster family while working with a trainer from Dogs for Better Lives.

Trish Welch, vice president of operations at Dogs for Better Lives, said the population of shelter dogs in the Pacific Northwest has been dwindling since the pandemic, leading to fewer available dogs to train to be service animals.

"We've been actively working to find ways to continue to train shelter dogs, and this partnership with Operation Kindness is an important step in achieving that goal," Welch said.

Shelter dogs who don't graduate from the training program will still be available to be adopted out in the community, and their new companion will benefit from the additional skills they learned in the program.

"We're honored to collaborate on this unique program that will train shelter dogs to become hearing assistance dogs and place them into loving homes," said Kelly Furnas, chief operating officer at Operation Kindness.

Dogs for Better Lives said they have seen people with disabilities wait up to three years for a service animal and that by increasing the number of dogs available to the program they hope to reduce the wait time.

"The demand for our service dogs is as high as ever, and we are thrilled to be partnering with Operation Kindness to train shelter dogs who will go on to significantly change the lives of people with disabilities," said Bryan Williams, CEO of Dogs for Better Lives. "We know this program will transform the lives of both shelter dogs and people."

For more information about the program, visit To become a foster volunteer with Operation Kindness, visit

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