JOPLIN, Mo. — An area group that pairs service dogs with veterans who are dealing with PTSD have a new leader, and he has some ambitious plans for the organization.
“Heartland Canines for Veterans” has been providing service dogs for veterans for the past eight years, and they’re now under new management.
“The partnership between veterans and canines, you can’t put a price on that,” said Jimmy Burgess, Executive Director, Heartland Canines For Veterans.
Jimmy Burgess has been selected to take over the organization from interim director Ted Donaldson.
Burgess is a veteran himself and has helped get several veteran-owned and operated ventures off the ground in Southwest Missouri.
He says Heartland has already provided 30 area veterans with service dogs, but with his contacts in the community, he wants that number to increase substantially.
“Obviously we’re looking to double and triple that over the next couple of years with the different programs we’re looking to put in place, um we’re looking at training more veterans to actually be trainers for service dogs, which again is just an unbelievable process to know that there is room for growth there,” said Burgess.
The organization also now has a physical location.
They share space with a business called “All Dogs Dream,” which is north of Neosho on Gateway Drive.
Burgess says the training between the animal and the veteran takes place on-site.
“Generally a veteran will reach out to us saying he could really use a service dog, uh so we do our vetting process with the veteran uh then we do the same thing with the dogs, it’s a vetting process making sure it’s going to be the right fit for the right veteran, and that door swings both ways, making sure that dog is going to have the right veteran as well,” said Burgess.
But Burgess says donations of money are needed to expand the program.