Who We Are
President: Kathi G. Schumann
Vice President/Treasurer: Mark Poziomek
Secretary: Shelly Ferger
Directors: Eleanor Bengyak
A non-profit organization devoted to improving the quality of life for Veterans and non-veterans, through training service and hearing dogs.
Founded in 2001 by CEO Shelly Ferger, Dogs For Life has been turning lives around by providing independence and self-reliance for people who need assistance. At the same time, we’ve been able to provide a renewed purpose for abandoned dogs through specialized training. Dogs For Life trained assistance dogs enrich people’s lives – providing ears that hear smoke alarms, paws that tap a 911 button to call for emergency assistance, and legs that provide added mobility. And the fastest growing need for assistance dogs in Florida is among the brave men and women who have served in the United States military.
A UNIQUE NEED
Over one million veterans have returned home from service since September 11, 2001. Of these, 20% struggle with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and are facing physical limitations associated with injuries from combat. As they face the daunting challenge of continuing military service or integrating into society, specially-trained assistance dogs can provide a life of independence and
dignity to meet the unique needs of these American heroes. PTS symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, anxiety attacks and perceived threats trigger what is known as the “flight or fight” mode, which served these soldiers well when they were in combat. However, if untreated, PTS can become a life sentence of mental illness that affects the ability to sleep, interact socially, and maintain a job or a meaningful relationship. Consequently, veterans account for 20% of suicides in the U.S. and 1/3 of the homeless population in the state of Florida; plus 45% of them suffer from mental illness. Add to this the number of veterans with physical disabilities, and the numbers are staggering.
Men and women who have served our country deserve an opportunity to live a self-reliant, productive life and to pursue the American dream. In addition to the growing demand among U.S. veterans, several thousand residents in our community, who are hearing, mobility and emotionally impaired, would benefit from an assistance dog. As an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International, Dogs For Life is contacted daily by people with disabilities who need information on dog placement and training. We are ready to fulfill this need in our community with our trained assistance dogs. Currently, the need for assistance dogs far outweighs the availability. This situation is unacceptable.
We believe that, together, both dogs and humans can help enrich each other's lives.
OUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE
In response to these growing needs, Dogs For Life has taken action and developed a plan that will expand the assistance dog program. To execute our plan, we built a Training Center, located on our 4+ acre Off-Leash Dog Park campus at 1230 16th Avenue in Vero Beach, FL. The 2,400 sq. ft. air-conditioned Center enables additional services that help to maintain the campus and provide support for services and programs. Additionally, the Center includes office space for staff and volunteers, a canine assessment center, and rest station facilities for dog park guests.
Community & Professional