My Service Dog’s Place to offer shelter for service dogs while their handlers seek care
By LOIS KINDLE
My Warrior’s Place in Ruskin is widely known as a retreat center for veterans, active duty members of the military, active or retired members of law enforcement and firefighters, their families and the families of the fallen. Soon it will also be known as a safe place for the service dogs of these folks to go when their handlers are involuntarily committed or must seek treatment for serious medical or mental issues and have nowhere for their dogs to go while they’re away.
Currently, these animals end up in the pound, where they can be put up for adoption or, in a worst case scenario, euthanized.
My Service Dog’s Place is a new program under development at My Warrior’s Place under the direction of its president and founder Kelly Kowall and Army veteran Chad Landry, a retired, 12-year law enforcement canine officer who lives on the MWP property with his former working dog, Badge.
“The program is for American heroes [and] their families whom My Warrior’s Place supports,” Kowall said. “It’s so desperately needed, more than we ever anticipated.”
“People aren’t aware that if you have a service dog and have a PTSD meltdown, you’re required to go for an involuntary examination for a minimum of three days that could be extended for weeks, even months,” Landry said. “The dog goes to the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center.”
In a matter of days, the dog can placed on the adoption list if other arrangements aren’t made, he said.
The My Service Dog’s Place program will intervene in this process by Landry’s picking up these dogs and taking them to My Warrior’s Place to provide their handlers’ peace of mind during their time of difficulty.
“I’ve talked with two veterans outside of Hillsborough County who lost their dogs either to adoption or euthanasia,” Kowall said. “It’s heartbreaking when the handler gets out; his service dog is gone forever.”
Landry is currently picking up service dogs and housing them in temporary kennels. The goal is build a permanent 10-kennel facility with dog runs, once funding is secured, Kowall said.
That’s where the community can help.
“Our problem right now is the skyrocketing costs and backlog of building materials,” Kowall said. “We immediately need to spend $800 to $1,200 for 4-foot by 4-foot, temporary stackable kennels until we raise between $30,000 and $40,000 to build an indoor/outdoor kennel building with runs.”
“Once we do, the stackable kennels will be used for quarantine,” Landry said.
Kowall added they’re modeling their planned kennel building after area boarding facilities.
Thus far, they have $15,000 in donations toward their goal – $10,000 from a private donor, a small grant from Altrusa International and individual gifts.
If you’d like to help their efforts, you can donate cash or pet supplies, including dog bowls, flea and tick products, leashes, collars and shampoos. Pea gravel and sod also are needed.
Currently, Landry is supplying kennels and supplies from his dog training business, Patriotic Canine Services, and Rhonda Eldridge’s Pet Community Project is helping with food and vet bills.
Another way you can help is by donating your time. The program is going to need a volunteer coordinator to schedule and screen volunteers, a foster coordinator and volunteers to walk and provide human contact for the service dogs Landry brings to My Service Dog’s Place. He is available by calling 813-997-4050 or 813-321-0880, ext. 5.
To donate, go to www.mywarriorsplace.org, click on programs and then My Service Dog’s Place. You can donate from there or make one directly from the home page by clicking the “Donate” tab and choosing the program. Or you can mail a check earmarked for My Service Dog’s Place to My Warrior’s Place, 101 22nd St. NW, No. 112, Ruskin 33570.