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K9s for Warriors ‘saving two lives’ with initiative at St. Johns County animal shelter

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Each and every day, the dogs at the St. Johns County animal control shelter wait in kennels for a place to call their forever homes.

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On Thursday, K9s for Warriors visited the shelter to test 20 dogs of different breeds, hoping to match them as service dogs with veteran handlers in need.

“We’re not looking for adoptable pets, we’re looking for service dogs,” Daniel Clavel, Director of Procurement for K9s for Warriors told Action News Jax at Thursday’s event. “[We’re looking for] trainability, sociability, the ability to be confident.”

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While each of the 20 dogs were tested for resource guarding, how they react to physical touch, as well as how they react to other dogs, Clavel did explain there’s a level of compassion and patience for dogs who don’t immediately come out of their shell.

“They’ve either been in horrible kennel situations, or just in some backyard, basically used for breeding … so no sociability with humans, probably no social time with dogs. So it’s a lot, you know.”

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However, there is one key aspect that Clavel says is “make or break” for the dogs’ suitability as future service animals: their anxiety in public spaces.

“[Their owners are] already coming to us suffering from PTSD and wanting to basically acclimate back into life,” Clavel explained. “Well, if we give them a dog that also has anxiety, doing public access, it’s not going to mesh.”

Nonetheless, Clavel said it’s heartbreaking when dogs don’t qualify even for the K9s for Warriors evaluators.

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Ultimately though, the event does serve as an opportunity for a better life for both the dogs who qualify and the handlers who get to bring them home.

“The dogs feel it, the warrior feels it. And we say this again, every day. We’re saving two lives, you know, so it’s, it’s amazing,” Clavel said with a smile.

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