Canine Companions’ New Santa Rosa Center Aims to Meet National Service Dog Needs

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There aren’t enough service dogs for the 60 million people living with disabilities in the United States, according to Paige Mazzoni, CEO of Canine Companions for Independence.

With the grand opening of a new canine health and wellness center, Canine Companions, a national Santa Rosa-based nonprofit that breeds and trains service dogs, is working to close that gap.

“It’s about more puppies,” said Mazzoni, who hosted Friday’s dedication at the organization’s Dutton Avenue campus. “We are innovating for our future.”

The new 32,000 square foot facility, which is expected to be completed by August 2023, will house a research center, larger breeding space for early development and a veterinary hospital. All of this helps to breed more dogs that can help those in need.

Canine Companions will also own its new property.

“Now we will have our own buildings on our campus,” said Michelle Williams, spokeswoman for Canine Companions.

Currently, 400 disabled adults, children and veterans in the United States are waiting for service dogs, trained to help them in their daily lives.

“Canine Companion puppies are special because you know they have the potential” to change the lives of people with disabilities, said Brenda Kennedy, vice president of canine health and research at the association.

According to officials, once the new center is built, the organization will increase the number of service dogs it breeds – from 820 in 2021 to 1,500 by 2025. Canine Companions also plans to more than double its staff of volunteers, from 90 to 200.

Canine Companions is the world’s largest service dog provider. It’s also the research leader for comprehensive service dog breeding, according to Kennedy.

It also collaborates with veterinary hospitals and colleges across the country, including Duke and Purdue universities. It also has satellite training offices in various parts of the United States.

“We want to support our dogs’ longevity and the traits that make them more successful,” Kennedy said.

The current Santa Rosa facility is at capacity, Kennedy said. Once trained, local puppies are sent all over the United States to be matched with people with disabilities.

The new Canine Companions center will cost $19 million.

A new veterinary surgery room will increase the number of operations that can be performed at the same time. And provide hospital-grade biosecurity for his pregnant dogs and their newborn puppies, as well as a specific area where litters will be monitored.

According to the group’s website, former board chairman Jean Schulz became involved with Canine Companions in 1986. She and her late husband, famed Santa Rosa cartoonist Charles Schulz, believed dogs were “marvellous”.

“I didn’t know if I would be alive when this happened,” Schulz told the gathering at Friday’s dedication ceremony. “We realized a long time ago that breeding was important. This new Whelping and Health Center will help with all of that.

Friday’s ceremony was also to thank the organization’s volunteers, donors and staff, including Dr. Phil Lin, National Veterinary Director, who drew up the plans for the new center.

The organization chose to name the Breeding Center for Early Development after longtime donor Nancy Nelson, of Nebraska, who passed away in July 2020.

According to Mazzoni, when told about the honor, Nelson said, “I find it wonderfully ironic that you wanted to put my name on a breeding center.” Nelson was single and never had any children.

Members of his family traveled from Nebraska to attend the ceremony on Friday.

“This new health and wellness center is a game-changer for those who need it most,” said Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who helped Canine Companions through the bureaucratic approval process for the facility. ‘State.

You can reach editor Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.

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