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Who We Are

Eddie Boatwright
Kathi G. Schumann
Vice President
Michelle Dale
Founder & Secretary
Shelly Ferger
Director & Volunteer Coordinator
Linda Barberi
Rick Lewis, USN
Nancy Kicherer, DVM
Philip "Phil" Tettleton
CEO & Director of Training
Shelly Ferger
Admin, Assistant Training
Ann Nolan
Administrative Assistant to the CEO
Laura Bonney
Financial Manager
Chris Consi
Maintenance Manager
Harry Taylor
Michael Wright
Marcia Adache
Gabriele Harrison

Dogs For Life, Inc. is a non-profit organization devoted to improving the quality of life for veterans and other individuals in need through training hearing and service dogs, providing therapy dogs for first responders and school resource programs, and owning an off-leash dog park.


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 and live in Indian River and St. Lucie counties in Florida. At the same time, we’ve been able to provide a renewed purpose for dogs through specialized training. Dogs For Life's trained service dogs enrich people’s lives – providing ears that hear smoke alarms, paws that tap a 911 button to call for emergency assistance, legs that provide added mobility, and pressure to calm anxiety attacks. The fastest growing need for assistance dogs in Florida is among the brave men and women who have served in the United States military or as First Responders.



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.

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.

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Decisions regarding training and volunteering are made without prejudice to race, color, creed, religion, age, financial or marital status. All applicants, clients, and volunteers will be treated with respect and dignity within the organization. 

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