By Paul Keily
Semper K9 Assistance Dogs is a nonprofit organization founded and operated by Chris and Amanda Baity that provides training to service and support dogs for military veterans. They are hoping to expand to a new property in Catlett, Virginia, where they will be able to provide a centralized location for their training services.
Semper K9 was founded in November 2014 and adopted their first dog a few months later. Since then they have graduated almost 30 dogs. Their trainers, called K9 coaches, assist with the training of service dogs that are rescued through their local rescue partner. Semper K9 trains three different types of dogs; first, service dogs are rescued by the Baitys and then trained and custom to work with a disabled veteran and their family. Maintenance training dogs are brought to the organization by veterans, often as family pets, and trained to meet the needs of the veteran and their family. Facility dogs are trained to provide assistance to a business or organization, such as a school or assisted living facility. All dogs are trained to the standards of the Association of Service Dogs Providers for Military Veterans, an association that Semper K9 was one of the founding member organizations. When the dogs have graduated from training they are provided to a veteran free of charge and help enhance the occupational, social, and recreational lifestyle of the veteran and their family.
Chris is a Marine Corps Combat Veteran who has struggled with PTSD. He grew up in a family that raised dogs professionally and has worked as a dog handler for 15 years. He decided to use his skills and experience to help his fellow veterans by providing them with fully trained service and support dogs. His wife, Amanda is the Director of Operations. They pride themselves on being transparent, disclosing all financial statements on their website and providing anyone who asks with in-depth information about their practices and programs.
All the activities of Semper K9 and their 100 volunteers occur at rented and volunteer locations. The Baitys use their home as the site of many operations. Recently, while driving to see a friend’s new property, they stumbled upon the undeveloped property in Catlett. The 33 acres of land sits in Fauquier County near its borders with Stafford and Prince William Counties, on the border of Marine Corps Base Quantico. The land has already been approved for construction, and volunteer contractors are ready to start work on the facility that would allow Semper K9 to create a standalone training facility from the ground up. The facility would provide a private place for dogs to train and for veterans to get to know their new service animal. They would be able to train up to 48 dogs a year.
To secure this land and begin construction on their facility, the Baitys need to make a $25,000 down payment on the property. They have started a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/campk9) where you can donate to their cause. Chris said, “I have been working for this all my life. Financial help from businesses and the community would allow me to help more of my fellow veterans. Every veteran who is eligible to receive a service dog should be able to get the best-trained dog, free of charge. We are one of the few organizations around the country who provide this service at no cost to veterans and the only in this area.”
Paul Keily ([email protected]) is a lifelong Prince William County resident and a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University and is preparing to become a special education teacher.