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'Paws for Purple Hearts' makes man's best friend, warrior's best friend


Forty-five percent of post 9/11 veterans have a service-connected disability, and 39% have a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or both. According to Paws for Purple Hearts those are the statistics, and these injuries can make it difficult for veterans to return to civilian life.

We are dedicated to improving the lives of America’s Warriors facing mobility challenges and trauma related conditions such as PTSD and TBI by providing the highest quality service dogs and canine assisted therapeutic programs.
Paws for Purple Hearts, Mission Statement

Paws for Purple Hearts is the first program in the world offering Warrior Canine TherapyTM, also known as Canine Assisted Therapeutic Intervention to veterans and active-duty military personnel. The organization was founded in 2006 as a program within the Bergin University of Canine Studies in California. It is the first and only university in the world that focuses on training dogs and learning about dogs.

The founder of Bergin University, is renowned canine researcher Dr. Bonnie Bergin. In 1975, Bergin also invented the concept of the service dog. As of 2011, Paws for Purple Hearts is no longer directly affiliated with Bergin University; rather, they are a 501(c)(3) organization. Dr. Bergin continues her involvement on their Board of Directors.

Paws for Purple Hearts works in with veterans across the country. Their regional headquarters are in Fairbanks, AK; San Diego, CA; Ruther Glen, VA; San Antonio, TX; and their national headquarters is in Menlo Park, CA. They have service coming-soon to the northern United States. Therapy is offered at their sites as well as at VA, DOD, and certain partner organization facilities.

They are able to provide service dog training canine assisted therapeutic intervention, service dogs, facility dogs, specialist assistance dogs, and dog obedience training to the veterans they assist at no cost to the service member.

In 2010, Paws for Purple Hearts began working with veterans who suffered from TBI's and PTSD. In 2014, a study was completed by Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Bergin concluding that "PTSD symptoms and depression related functioning are lower among those PTSD patients with dogs than those without. PTSD patients with service dogs had better overall mental health, less substance abuse, and rated their interpersonal relationships better than those without service dogs."


Paws for Purple Hearts website boasts that they have deployed 53 dogs, helped 2,968 warriors in therapy sessions, and improved more than 2,500 lives.

In an interview with Circa, Christina Cherry, one of the program instructors at their Ruther Glen, VA site said that they mostly use golden retrievers and labs for their therapy programs because of their temperament.

The dogs are bred specifically to be used as service dogs and trained from birth to the age of two or three years before their specialty and placement are determined.

Cherry said that like people, not all dogs are good for all jobs. Some will be excellent service dogs and others make great companions. If a Paws for Purple Hearts dog cannot complete their training to be a service animal, they usually go to a veteran whose home could use a loving pet.

Paws for Purple Hearts has a number of success stories, and many that are a work in progress while they use dogs to heal hearts and minds.

Paws for Purple Hearts is dedicated to improving the lives or America’s Warriors facing Mobility Impairment challenges and trauma related conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Military Sexual Trauma by providing the highest quality Service Dogs and Canine Assist Therapeutic programs in which the Warriors themselves actively train the Service Dogs for their injured comrades.
Paws for Purple Hears, How We Help

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