A U.S. Marine who was wounded by an IED while on duty in Iraq is putting his military experience to work in the private sector, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Purple Heart recipient Matt Kinney is the militiary adviser and Assistant Director of Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, a new non profit which has opened in New Braunfels to train dogs to become badly needed companion and service dogs for veterans who suffer from conditions ranging from limb loss to PTSD.
Kinney says in addition to helping out veterans, Semper K9 will also save the lives of unwanted and homeless animals.
"It used to be there were 4,000 dogs being euthanized every day in the United States and now I'm told that number is up to 5500," Kinney told News Radio 1200 WOAI's Megan Bishop. "We use strays and donated dogs. There is no reason why those dogs can't be trained."
He says any breed of dog can be trained to provide the services of a companion animal, from providing emotional companionship to helping a disabled veteran see, walk, and negotiate hills and stairs.
"We don't look at the individual bred, because it's not about the breed," he said. "Its about the dog and the individual veteran. There is no restriction on weight, there is no restriction on size."
He says it costs about $20,000 per dog and up to two years for complete training, which is why trained service dogs are in such demand.
He says the decision was made to set up shop in New Braunfels because the region is growing rapidly, and the I-35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin has one of the largest concentrations of military veterans in the U.S.
Kinney says Semper K9 is looking for a permanent location and is also working to find volunteers who can help with the dogs.
IMAGE: SEMPER K9