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Warrior Canine Connection Launches Program in Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court

Service Dog Training Program to Help Wounded Veterans Avoid Incarceration 

BOYDS, Md. – Warrior Canine Connection announces it is offering a new program to support the Veterans Treatment Court in Baltimore. Working with District Court in Baltimore City, the WCC program utilizes service dog training as a community service option for Veterans involved with the criminal justice system.

“The Veterans Treatment Court Program has had a positive impact on those involved in our program at our California sites, and we are honored to provide the same service to Veterans involved in the District Court in Baltimore City in hopes that we will see similar outcomes,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director, Warrior Canine Connection. “The VTC program offers a productive and rewarding community service option for Veterans involved in the legal system and is, at the same time, helping to produce much-needed service dogs for their fellow Veterans.”

The Baltimore-based program is in addition to WCC’s current VTC programs in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in California. Many Veterans have received value from the mental health benefits associated with the canine-focused community service program. The VTC program utilizes WCC’s Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) model in which Veterans work to overcome the stress of combat by training service dogs for their fellow Veterans.

As an extension of WCC’s programming, partner organization Assistance Dogs of the West has offered WCC’s training model in the Veterans Court Program, Second Judicial District, Santa Fe, New Mexico since 2014. Judges Stan Whitaker and Christina Argyres of the SJDC Veterans Court Program have enthusiastically embraced the dogs as part of their program and the tremendously positive effects they have on the lives of Veteran participants.

Veterans involved in the courts are often required to complete a set number of community service hours. The dog training — offered through WCC — is one of the options on the docket. Training takes place on a weekly basis at the courthouse and Veterans can participate within the WCC program for the duration of their VTC commitment.

“The service dog training opportunity brought to our Veterans Treatment Court by Warrior Canine Connection has been something our Veterans can really relate to,” said Judge Halee Weinstein, Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court. “One of the most important aspects of our VTC program is re-instilling the sense of duty to the community, and training dogs that will go on to assist other Veterans helps rebuild their connection with the entire community of Veterans.”

The program teaches Veterans how to work with service dogs in training which helps not only to meet their legal community service obligations but also fulfills a time-honored military tradition of Warriors helping Warriors. In doing so, the Veteran can also benefit from skills development in communication, confidence building, accountability, emotional regulation and patience to promote an act of service while receiving a therapeutic benefit.

Starting in 2008, states and counties in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs created a system of Veterans Treatment Courts throughout the nation. To date, these VTCs have used treatment to help rehabilitate more than 10,000 Veterans with mental health and/or substance dependence and legal issues. Despite these efforts, tens of thousands of Veterans continue to need similar assistance.

For some post-9/11 Veterans, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury can contribute to their misconduct, such as increased risk-taking, self-medication and other behavioral issues that result in their subsequent, and sometimes repeated, involvement in the criminal justice system.

The WCC VTC Program was developed and implemented thanks in part to a 2017 grant provided by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The Foundation had provided a previous 2016 grant to WCC to oversee a feasibility plan to use service dogs as a community service option.

For more information, please contact Beth Bourgeois, Warrior Canine Connection, at beth.bourgeois@warriorcanineconnection.org or 719-216-3206.