WASHINGTON — An April 3rd letter from a military contract officer laid out several complaints about the performance of Warrior Canine Connection, the group that trains veterans to train service dogs for their fellow disabled vets.
A letter sent to the firm managing the contract for Warrior Canine Connection complained about the “health and well-being of animals, specifically as it pertains to standard precautions in a health care setting”.
According to the letter, there had been several instances when dogs who appeared to be sick, described as unable to control their bowels, were brought to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. The contract states that animals with any sign of illness — from runny noses to diarrhea — could not be brought to the facility.
The complaints also included concerns that the dogs suffering those signs of illness went untreated and that one dog had issues that “were allowed to persist for months.” Rick Yount, Executive Director of Warrior Canine Connection told WTOP Wednesday that there had been some concern about health issues among some dogs, but that a veterinarian was brought in and those issues were resolved.
Other complaints in the letter related to the qualifications of trainers. According to the letter signed by Contracting Officer Martin Rios, “Several complaints showed that WCC was not and continues to not provide the required ‘trained professionals’” called for in the contract.
According to the letter, “These complaints also show that individuals hired for certain positions on this contract, do not meet the qualifications written in the contract, and these qualifications were never pursued in order to obtain contract compliance.”
Marvin Davis, of MD Consulting in Waldorf, Maryland, was the prime contractor for Warrior Canine Connection. He told WTOP that the issues in the April 3 letter “had been resolved” and that they were not the cause of the stop-work order that Warrior Canine Connection got on Oct. 27.
Instead, Davis said, “Based on my communications with the government, the letter of concern was not the basis of the stop-work order.”
Davis said he was told “The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center medical director wanted to go in a different direction as it related to the canine program at Walter Reed.”
In an email statement on Thursday, Communications Director for Walter Reed Sandy Dean wrote to WTOP to say that the stop-work order was issued “so that we could restructure the contract to enhance oversight of patient care.” She added that canine-assisted therapy programming would continue at Walter Reed, but didn’t say whether that would include dogs from Warrior Canine Connection.
Asked about the likelihood that Warrior Canine Connection would eventually return to work at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir, Davis, the prime contractor for Warrior Canine Connection said, “I could not answer that question. I just don’t know.”
Yount, the Executive Director at Warrior Canine Connection, told WTOP on Wednesday that no matter what happens with the contract, “We’re going to continue serving veterans with the dogs in this program. We can’t stop. We know it’s invaluable.”
Matt Moores, a retired Marine who was both treated at Walter Reed and eventually went to work for Warrior Canine Connection before stepping down in August, shared the same concerns about trainers’ qualifications that were outlined in the April 3 letter. While critical of the management at the nonprofit, Moores also said he supports the mission of the organization.
Moores said Warrior Canine Connection needs to be back at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed. “But it needs to be done correctly. It needs to be led effectively. Not just for the patients, but for the staff who work so hard.”
He added, “Our wounded soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors — they deserve to have these dogs.”