Without explanation, a program that provides wounded veterans with service dogs has been told to vacate their offices at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed.
(Germantown, MD) – Since 2009, the Warrior Canine Connection has been working hard to prepare service dogs for wounded warriors and their families in the Washington, D.C. area, from raising puppies to training the canines with their network of volunteers. Last month, their executive director, Rick Yount received a phone call telling him that there was a stop work order in place and that they were to vacate their offices at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
According to Yount, there have been no issues, complaints, or incidents that they have been made aware of. He told a local news station, “We’ve heard absolutely nothing.”
The Warrior Canine Connection begins training dogs when they are just a few weeks old; volunteers who raise the dogs are given training at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed. Additionally, the program incorporates veterans into the training process, where they assist in preparing the dogs for a life of service with wounded veterans and their families. The benefits of this are two-fold; in addition to the training of the service dogs, veterans assisting with the training are able to work through some of their post-deployment issues.
Immediately following this story coming out, websites began publishing articles falsely claiming that President Trump had personally intervened and “abruptly” shut down the program, leaving wounded veterans “high and dry” right before Veterans Day. The story got enough traction that even Snopes had to weigh in and say that this was completely false, as the stop work order had been issued by Walter Reed officials.
However, the prime contractor for Warrior Canine Connection said that all issues from the complaint had been resolved and were not involved with the stop work order.
According to WTOP, a military contract official wrote a letter in April complaining about the “health and well-being of animals, specifically as it pertains to standard precautions in a healthcare setting.” Yount stated that there had been some concerns over health issues with dogs in the program, but that a veterinarian had resolved all of those problems. The letter also alleged that some involved in the training had not met the standards of the contract. However, the prime contractor for Warrior Canine Connection said that all issues from the complaint had been resolved and were not involved with the stop work order.
According to the prime contractor, Walter Reed had just decided to move in a different direction; Walter Reed’s communications director stated that canine-assisted therapy programs would continue, but that she could not say if the Warrior Canine Connection would be involved or invited to return.
Warrior Canine Connection issued a statement of their own, stating that “WCC will continue to provide its unique form of animal-assisted therapy and dog placement services to service members and veterans who need our help. Our commitment to this critical mission is unwavering, and our programs at locations not impacted by the stop work order continue to operate as usual. We have received countless inquiries from hundreds of concerned friends, patients, members of the medical community, and lawmakers offering their support and assistance.”