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K9s for Warriors visits UNF

UNF student posing with an officer and her station dogUniversity of North Florida students in the Criminal Justice Club recently welcomed station dogs from K9s for Warriors and officers from multiple local police agencies to campus.    

With the assistance of UNF professor of criminology and criminal justice Dr. Michael Hallett and local departments, the event introduced students to the officers who lead the Station Dog Program to discuss the benefits of partnering first responders with carefully trained dogs.  

The Station Dog Program is part of the K9s for Warriors' mission to ease the symptoms of service-connected traumas, specifically partnering with law enforcement and other first responder agencies. As an American Kennel Club-recognized therapy dog program, station dogs are made up of retired service dogs or dogs that have received extensive training from professional trainers.  

Spreading from Jacksonville to a total of 53 agencies nationwide, the unique program was developed between 2019 to 2021 by Dr. Hallett and three northeast Florida police departments with K9s for Warriors in the aftermath of a suicide by a local police officer and the devastating impact his loss had on the community.  

UNF student, Sophia Velasco, posing with an officer and his station dogUNF students who attended the event reported positive feedback about the chance to increase their awareness of the struggles first responders face, the program's benefits and the opportunity to network with officials.  

“Attending not only motivated me, but also gave valuable insights into the significance of service and therapy dogs,” said UNF political science student Sophia Velasco. “It really sparked my interest in the criminal justice field.”  

Dr. Carlene Taylor, UNF clinical assistant professor and director of the Integrative Behavioral Health Clinical Training Center, also spoke with students about the physiological and emotional benefits of human-animal connections.   

K9s for Warriors plans to come back to UNF’s campus next year.