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Rescue dogs matched with veterans, first responders

A new Niagara Dog Rescue program will match rescued dogs with military personnel and first responders.
Ken Osborne, a volunteer who has served in the Canadian Forces for 24 years, with rescue dog Meabh.

Starting in November, a new program from Niagara Dog Rescue will match rescued dogs with military personnel and first responders. The dog rescue organization will subsidize the adoption fee and provide other support to strengthen the companionship between the adopter and the rescued dog.

The Companionship Initiative will match rescued dogs with veterans, health professionals, police, firefighters and emergency service personnel, said Ken Osborne, a volunteer who has served in the Canadian Forces for 24 years.

“It’s a new initiative,” he said. “The focus here is to give back to veterans, health professionals and first responders for their service to their community. It benefits both the dogs and first responders.”

The non-profit charity is run solely by volunteers, and is dedicated to helping homeless and unwanted dogs find new homes. They focus on dogs at immediate risk of being euthanized at high-kill shelters.

November is veteran month, “and while this is a program that focuses on veterans, first responders, health professionals and so on, it does give us an opportunity to feature veterans,” said Osborne, a retired lawyer with the Office of the Judge Advocate General and a veteran of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-
Herzegovina and combat operations in Afghanistan.

On its website, the dog rescue organization acknowledged that “first responders and military personnel contribute immensely to the protection of our rights and freedoms, our security, our health, and our well-being and they often serve without recognition, and they willingly endure hardship so that we may live safely, and in peace.”

“Niagara Dog Rescue also understands the importance that dog companionship can bring to our lives, and the lives of veterans, police, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel, and their families. Dogs comfort us, enable us and improve our mental and physical well-being. Many rescued dogs become lifelong, loyal, and treasured members of our family.”

“The initiative entails leveraging adoption fees,” said Osborne, “and includes training.”

A standard adoption fee will be reduced by $350 for eligible first responders and military personnel. The adoption of a puppy will cost $500, and the adoption of an adult dog will cost $345.

The fee helps cover the costs associated with rescuing the dog, vetting, boarding, transportation, spaying/neutering, heartworm testing, vaccines and microchipping.

In addition to paying a reduced adoption fee, all eligible veterans, medical professionals and first responders who adopt a rescued dog through the Companionship Initiative will be enrolled in a curated dog training and behavioural support webinar.

Rescue dogs are not to be confused with service dogs. “They’re not support dogs nor service dogs,” explained Osborne. “We do know that dogs provide support and comfort to their owners generally, but this is a rescue adoption initiative which is directed at taking our rescue dogs and moving them to veterans and first responders.”

“When I came to Niagara Dog Rescue as a volunteer, (board member) Roci Freeman thought that it might be a good opportunity for me to assist in starting up this initiative,” said Osborne, who, with his wife Alison, has two rescue dogs.

“There will be events over the course of the year because we do need to fundraise and support the program, but there isn’t going to be a launch event.” Osborne noted that they would like to adopt out five to seven dogs a month through this year-long initiative.

“For us, it’s identifying the veterans or the first responders who are coming forward and looking to adopt dogs and coming to Niagara Dog Rescue. But it really all depends on the support that we get in order to sponsor and subsidize that adoption fee.”

“This is entirely a Niagara Dog Rescue initiative. We are looking for grants and support from the community, including from veterans’ groups and associations that support first responders.”

“We’ve had a couple of individuals come forward, as well as companies, who are willing to sponsor a dog for a veteran or a first responder family through the companionship initiative,” Osborne said.

For donation and adoption information, visit