SAN FRANCISCO – Veterans involved in legal issues in San Francisco Superior Court’s Veterans Justice Court are now learning to train service dogs for their fellow Veterans through a new program being offered by Warrior Canine Connection. Veterans participating in WCC’s service dog training program not only fulfill community service hours but they also learn about dog psychology and training and volunteer with a professional service dog training instructor while helping fellow Veterans at the same time.
Many Veterans receive valuable 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 effects of combat stress. Veterans who experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are at risk for problematic behaviors, such as increased risk-taking, self-medication, sleeplessness and other symptoms that can result in their subsequent, and sometimes repeated, involvement in the criminal justice system.
“This program is immensely valuable to Veterans wrestling with legal issues, often for many, those issues are due to combat-related injury and stress,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director of Warrior Canine Connection. “The San Francisco Superior Court’s Veterans Justice Court has been a tremendous partner in rolling out this program. We both want to see Veterans back on their feet and we hope to provide that value through this program now and well into the future.”
WCC’s service dog training program operates in participation with the San Francisco Superior Court’s Veterans Justice Court. The program runs for a total of eight weeks while Veterans learn to train service dogs. The program helps them meet their legal community service obligations and also fulfills a time-honored military tradition of Warriors helping Warriors. In doing so, the Veteran can build confidence and important skills in communication, accountability, emotional stability, patience and parenting.
One group participant said, “I really like this group and I feel like being around animals is good for my mental health. It’s like the dog helps us just as much as we help him.”
In addition to the San Francisco Superior Court, WCC also provides service dog training programs in conjunction with the Veterans Treatment Court programs in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-216-3206.
About Warrior Canine Connection
Warrior Canine Connection is a pioneering organization that utilizes a Mission Based Trauma Recovery model to empower returning combat Veterans who have sustained physical and psychological wounds while in service to our country. Based on the concept of Warriors helping Warriors, WCC’s therapeutic service dog training program is designed to mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other challenges, while giving injured combat Veterans a sense of purpose, help in reintegrating back into their families and communities, and a potential career path as a service dog trainer. For more information, visit www.warriorcanineconnection.org.
About Veterans Justice Court
San Francisco Superior Court Veterans Justice Court (VJC) addresses the specialized needs of veterans facing criminal charges by providing substance abuse and mental health treatment, rehabilitation, medical assistance, training necessary for employment or meaningful activity, and support with legal issues so that clients can lead productive and independent lives. The VJC adheres to the principles of San Francisco’s other collaborative court programs: a problem-solving focus, a team approach to decision-making, integration of social and treatment services, judicial supervision of the treatment process and community outreach. For more information, visit https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/divisions/collaborative/veterans-justice.