Maryland

Walter Reed Stops Contract With Service Dog Program Because of ‘Oversight' Issues

The program has touched 4,000 service members and veterans

Walter Reed National Medical Military Center says it has parted ways with a non-profit organization that trains and provides service dogs for veterans because its contract didn't give the hospital enough oversight over the program.

NBC4 Washington news partner WTOP reported Wednesday that Warrior Canine Connection trainers and and puppy raisers at Fort Belvoir and at two locations on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, were told on Oct. 27th to vacate their offices.

Walter Reed spokesperson Sandy Dean told News4 Thursday the military hospital effectively canceled its contract with Warrior Canine Connection.

"We issued a stop work order to the prime contractor so that we could restructure the contract to enhance oversight of patient care," Dean said Thursday evening.

Dean said the contract did not provide Walter Reed enough oversight over the program. As a result, Walter Reed will restructure its Canine Assisted Therapy program, according to Dean. The government contract will then go out to bid.

"We are expeditiously updating our Canine Assisted Therapy program to bring an enhanced version back on-line and apologize for any inconvenience or disturbance this temporary pause may bring to our patents and staff's normal routine," Dean said.

In the meantime, Dean said patients who worked with Warrior Canine Connection's service dogs at their facility will still receive services through the hospital's other therapy programs.

Warrior Canine Connection Executive Director Rick Yount told WTOP no one had given him any information about why the program was halted at the military sites.

“At two o’clock in the afternoon, I received a phone call saying there was a stop work order. There was no explanation whatsoever as to why that was the decision,” Yount told WTOP.

"Legally we are not permitted to discuss contract matters with subcontractors. That responsibility rests with the prime contractor," Dean said. Dean said the prime contractor is MD Consulting.

On an old dairy farm in Boyds, Maryland, Warrior Canine Connection trains golden retriever puppies to be the next generation of service dogs.

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The program has touched 4,000 service members and veterans, Yount told News4 in April.

"It's something outside themselves, and they'll stretch themselves and do things that they never would because they're focused on the mission,” he said. “It's not about them."

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