Local first responders highlight how therapy dogs from K9s For Warriors ease line-of-duty stress

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local law enforcement and first responders are highlighting the impact therapy dogs can have in their line of work.

On Tuesday, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters along with Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan joined K9s For Warriors to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month.


“It is a calling that comes with immense levels of stress, and that can have a significant impact on the mental health of our police officers and our firefighters,” Deegan said.

Waters said therapy dogs help his officers through the toughest days.

Read: City of Jacksonville hosts phone bank to answer questions about new mental health initiative

“We had one, we started off with Buster and it was so well received we added another, and another, and now we have 4,” Waters said. “Even if you’ve had a stressful day, even if there’s been an officer involved shooting (OIS) and there’s been something they’ve had to deal with, everyone’s happy to see them.”

Those four dogs were given to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by K9s For Warriors at no cost.

Representatives from the Florida Highway Patrol and St. Johns County Fire Rescue also told their stories of how their station dogs help them deal with day-to-day stressors.

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“We believe that it is imperative to support the First Coast and first responders,” Greg Wells, the director of the station dog program at K9s For Warriors, said.

The dogs are retired service dogs or dogs that have received extensive training from professional trainers with K9s For Warriors.

“We look to see which dogs are a good fit for that agency and if they are a good fit for the handler,” Wells said.

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It is part of K9s For Warriors’ Station Dog Program, which is an American Kennel Club-recognized Therapy Dog Program.

The therapy dogs are there to help first responders process emotions during tough moments on the job.

K9s For Warriors said there are 17 station dogs across Northeast Florida, and they hope to increase that number.

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