Off-leash park to stay open another year
By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH -- A puppy park is staying open for another year and a training center campaign is underway, thanks to generous community members.
After a few weeks of an uncertain future, Dogs for Life of Vero Beach, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life for people with disabilities by training dogs, announced it's private, off-leash dog park will stay open through the end of the year with the help of an anonymous donation.
The Vero Beach Country Club is also backing the nonprofit by helping to kickstart a campaign to build a training center for assistance dogs on the dog park site, said Shelly Ferger, founder of Dogs for Life.
Within the assistance dog program is a subsection for dogs to be trained to work with war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorders and Vero Beach Country Club has stepped up to the plate as a sponsor for that program, Ms. Ferger said.
An estimated 80,000 retiring veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be retiring to Florida in the next two years and Dogs for Life wants to help meet their needs by pre-training service dogs, a press release said.
Pia Pia is one of the dogs trained by Dogs for Life to work with her companion, retired U.S. Army Veteran Jim Taylor.
Panic attacks in crowded areas are a common result of post-traumatic stress disorder, and dogs like Pia Pia can be trained to stay close to their companion so that no people get to close and trigger the panic attack.
Other assistance dogs trained by Dogs for Life learn how to help them cope with hearing or seeing loss or other limited mobility issues.
The dogs are trained to alert their companion when a knock is heard at the door, or when a doorbell, telephone, alarm clock or smoke alarm is rung. Some dogs can even be trained to operate a special phone that dials 911 when their companion is in distress.
Dogs for Life does not receive government funding and relies on membership fees and donations to get through the year.
An anonymous donation in February has allowed the off-leash dog park to remain open through the end of 2013, but on a regular basis membership fees are used to maintain and operate the 4.5 acre park.
A one-year membership fee for one dog is $300, a second dog would add on $75, a third, $50.
Qualifying dogs must be inoculated, neutered and social. Prior to membership, an orientation at the park is scheduled with the dogs. Once the membership is finalized, members have their own security code to access the park from dawn to dusk all year round.
The off-leash dog park is located at the intersection of 12th Street and 16th Avenue in Vero Beach.
For more information about Dogs for Life, contact Ms. Ferger at (772) 567-8969 or visit www.dogsforlifevb.org.