More than a dozen dogs and their handlers are training in Jacksonville to assist people in the aftermath of tragedies and natural disasters.
The dogs went through security at Jacksonville International Airport and boarded a plane Saturday as part of their crisis response training program.
“It’s all about letting people relax, have some comfort. Have a little bit of downtime from that horrible crisis or disaster,” Julie Scott of HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response said.
She told Action News Jax that more than 300 dogs and their handlers have been called on to comfort people after natural disasters and tragedies around the nation.
“We had 17 dog teams from across the United States that responded to Hurricane Irma and we had 20 dog teams in Texas that responded to Hurricane Harvey,” Scott said.
She said the teams have also provided support in the aftermath of school shootings and the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
"We assisted folks in law enforcement, the dispatchers, who received some of the last calls from the victims," Scott said.
Nine dogs and their handlers from the Jacksonville area were training Saturday.
“I volunteer because I believe in the work these animals do and how much of a difference they make on a daily basis,” Lori Coleman said.
She brought her Australian shepherd, Deacon, to the three-day training event.
“He’s got a very easygoing temperament. That’s what makes him so good at his work,” she said. “He’s very intuitive. He can sense when somebody needs some attention.”
Deacon and the other dogs can be called on at any time to respond to the aftermath of a tragedy.
“Just devastating moments for people,” Coleman said. “We are hoping to bring just a moment of comfort and peace.”
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