When FBI agents raided San Antonio dog-training school Universal K9 earlier this year as part of a fraud allegations investigation into its owner, 26 dogs were seized by the the cityâs Animal Care Services because the school operator could not care for them anymore.
ACS worked with rescue organizations and placed eight of the canines with Mission K9 Rescue of Houston, which helps find homes for retired working dogs. The organization, which has co-founders in Houston and San Antonio, has helped find homes for five of the dogs so far, after getting the animals treatment for serious health issues.
When military working dogs are retired overseas, the federal government does not pay to bring them to the United States. Nonprofit organizations that include Mission K9 step in and help cover the cost of transporting the canines back and often reuniting them with their former handlers, some of them military veterans stationed at posts around the country that include Lackland, Fort Sam Houston and Fort Hood.
The services provided by Mission K9, which was formed in 2013, can get expensive, and the nonprofit relies on donations to help accomplish its mission: To rescue, reunite and rehabilitate military working dogs, contract working dogs (not owned by the government) or other canines that fit within the organizationâs mission.
âWe have rescued dogs from various situations,â said Kristen Maurer, one of Mission K9âs founders and president. âIn any industry, just like anywhere else, thereâs good and not as good (organizations). Some dogs come from amazing contract companies, and then thereâs others we get into our care and are in less than stellar condition.â
In the case of Universal K9, it was not under investigation for the treatment of its dogs, but over allegations that its owner misled a veterans commission and students about the qualifications or certification of its trainers, enabling Universal K9 to get more than $1 million in funds paid through the GI Bill. The owner has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the charges.
The dogs from Universal K9 had hookworms and giardia, a parasitic abdominal infection that can be deadly if left untreated, Maurer said. Some had other issues such as bad hips.
âEvery one of them had hookworm,â Maurer said. âThat is a contagious thing as well, so we had to put them in isolation. These are things had they gone untreated, they wouldnât have made it. Most were underweight. At first glance, a couple looked healthy, but once into the vet we found some issues that wouldnât have been good.
âWe get them treatment and it costs quite a bit of money to get them medically healthy,â Maurer added about some of the other dogs theyâve rescued. âA lot of the things are hips and knees, cancers and skin conditions; and just in general, we have to make sure they are healthy before they can come into our facility. We donât want to contaminate our facility.â
Mission K9 is renowned for helping reunite retired military working dogs with their former handlers. It won the âHelping Heroesâ award by the Petco Foundation in 2017 in recognition of the work it does.
âThe dogs we reunite, we donât own those dogs,â Maurer explained. âThose dogs are owned by the Department of Defense, and handlers adopt them through Lackland and other (bases), and the handlers reach out to us for financial help for getting the dogs to them.â
Relying on donations, Mission K9 covers military dogsâ flights, which can range from $500 within the U.S. to $4,000 from overseas. Maurer said her group has reunited more than 150 canine-handler teams.
And there is also a rehabilitation function. Working dogs can have anxiety and stress, just like their human colleagues, and those who have been in combat zones can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
âWe get them ready for adoption,â Maurer said. âWe call it âunhandling.â You have handlers who are training them. Weâre untraining them to be pets. Some of them come back and are ready to go into a home the next week.â
Other dogs might take longer to be ready for adoption.
âIf they donât need anything and are emotionally stable, they are adopted out,â Maurer said. âBut some stay six to eight months until they are ready to transition.â
Mission K9 looks for corporate and individual sponsors and donations from the public, but they also welcome other help.
âPeople can follow us on our Facebook page to see what our needs are,â Maurer said.
To help Mission K9 Rescue or to apply for adoption, go to the website, https://missionk9rescue.org/.
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @gmaninfedland