Nonprofit group says veterans with service dogs face hiring challenges

Veterans who have service dogs often find it difficult to get hired. Some even lose their current jobs once they get a service dog. That’s according to Healing 4 Heroes, a national nonprofit that works with veterans to get and train dogs.  

John Parris and his service dog Ammo are a success story. Parris is a Purple Heart recipient and an army veteran with four combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was badly injured in an IED explosion.

Onelife Fitness in Douglasville hired John as a manager and allowed Ammo to come to work with him.

John Parris and his service dog Ammo at Onelife Fitness in Douglasville

Parris said when he’s feeling anxious and fidgety Ammo will put his paw on his leg or foot, "just to let me know he’s there," Parris said.

Piper Hill of Healing 4 Heroes said she wishes John’s story was the usual experience veterans face when job hunting.  She can point to another one, veteran Mark Capps was hired by a Newnan retailer who also allows his service dog, Mickey, to be at his side in the store.  

Mark Capps and his service dog Ammo work at a Newnan, Ga., retailer

But Piper said most veterans with service dogs face a lot of challenges.

"It just runs the gamut of what these veterans experience when they come home from war," she said.  Speaking about vets with service dogs:  "Some are lucky and get hired right away, but some go to three, four or five different companies before they have found an employer."  She said some companies have agreed to allow the veteran to get a service dog only to let them go afterward.

Hill is also a combat veteran and equates a trained service dog as being just as essential as a wheelchair to someone who is disabled. 

Piper Hill with Healing 4 Heroes

"Veterans are some of the most popular employees out there," Parris said.  "Allowing them to have a service dog provides them with the tools to get the job done."

"Just give them a chance," Hill said.  "I promise you are going to have one of the best employees you have ever had in your life."

Healing 4 Heroes accepts donations, but they say more importantly they always need volunteers and foster families for the dogs that will be trained for service work. The dogs and the training are provided free of charge to all veterans.

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