BOYDS, Md. - A popular service dog program at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir was told to close up shop immediately, leaving many frustrated with a lack of answers for the shutdown.
Warrior Canine Connection is a two-fold operation as it provides service dogs for disabled veterans and also allows the dogs to be trained by military warriors suffering from PTSD.
"What we find is that through learning how to train these dogs, we're actually able to experientially retrain them from going reactive to patient, to go from emotionally numb to emotive," Warrior Canine Connection Founder Rick Yount said. "The key to this is that it's experiential. You don't learn patience from reading in a book, you learn patience from practicing it."
Yount said his nonprofit has trained and placed close to 5,000 service dogs through Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since 2008.
"They will stretch themselves quite a bit for the sake of helping another vet and we can get them to take the dogs out in public, sometimes for the first time in years, because they're focusing on the dogs and the needs of the vet who is going to eventually need that dog," Yount explained.
Warrior Canine Connection had a sub-contract with MD Consulting through 2019, but Friday afternoon was slapped with a stop work order from the federal government. More than a hundred dogs and service members were in the middle of training, according to Yount.
"Everybody I've talked to doesn't understand why this action was taken," Yount said.
FOX 5 reached out to Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir for an explanation and has not yet heard back. MD Consulting was told the military treatment facility director wanted to go in a different direction and that there were no issues related to the performance or incidents related to the dogs.
Retired Lt. Tommy Faulkenberry, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, said he was stunned to hear the news. He was paired up with Warrior Canine Connection through Walter Reed and he told FOX 5 training and now owning a service dog changed his life.
"I ditched a whole lot of medications for dog fur and slobber," Faulkenberry said. "It makes me sad that's the case because I know how they helped me and my family and all the people that I know they've helped."
Warrior Canine Connection told FOX 5 they will continue their work and attempt to work with other local centers while they wait for answers.