Expert tips and behind-the-scenes looks at the service dog industry.

Updated: 1 day ago

Over the last year we have heard the term supply chain disruption used to describe the inability of manufactures to deliver components or parts of items we were previously accustomed to being available at a moment’s notice. This was especially true for quite some time in the automobile industry. Supply chain disruptions are not something we were accustomed to and drove prices for items up.

Imagine for a moment though, if the supply chain issue impacted materials you needed to make a device critical to addressing a serious health issue you experience. Imagine you needed to wait four years for this device... would you find that acceptable?

Well, that's exactly what's happening to our veterans with PTSD with something the Americans with Disabilities Act deems a medical device—a service dog.

Supply Chain Issues In the Service Dog Industry

The service dog industry—a nonprofit industry—has had a supply chain issue for years. However, because most nonprofit service dog organizations do not charge for a service dog placement, its doesn’t impact the organization. They do the best they can. It also doesn’t impact donors who give their hard earned dollars.

What Would This Look Like In a For-Profit Industry?

If service dogs were being produced by a for-profit business, the supply chain inefficiency would absolutely impact investors in a very negative way.

If this were the case, it would result in a precipitous fall in share price, investors fleeing the organization, probably a shakeup in executive management, and an extremely hard time raising future capital.

The Root Cause of the Issue

To put it frankly, most service dog organizations do not have a breeding program. As a result they turn to the only place where dogs are always available—shelters—to find dogs to place in their training programs. A longitudinal study conducted by one of the oldest and best service dog organizations in the country, Paws with a Cause found that approximately 1 out of 12 (only 8.25%) of the dogs taken from shelters successfully completed service dog training and were partnered. Further, a percentage of the shelter dogs placed into partnership develop aggression or anxiety and have to be returned.

While this study revealed an 8.25% success rate, many organization do undertake evaluations of their own and generate high results. But even if an organization is able to double or triple this rate of success, are we to accept 15% and 25% success rates as high enough? (But what are these organizations supposed to do when their only way to receive a continuous supply of dogs to train is through shelters?)

Repairing the Service Dog Supply Chain with Expertise In Breeding & Nurturing Puppies

In 2005, I first learned about supply chain inefficiencies within the service dog industry. I wanted to do something that would utilize my love for dogs—specifically Labrador Retrievers.

While my initial idea was training dogs to become service dogs, this study made it clear I'd face the same supply chain challenges.

It takes very special puppies to become service dogs. Certain breeds excel, but not all puppies of those breeds have the combination of health history, conformation, temperament, intelligence and intuition that will make them successful. It takes a lot money, education, experience and esoteric knowledge to breed outstanding dogs. Being able to perform pedigree analysis, understanding coefficients of inbreeding, recognizing the potential illnesses that can befall a dam during pregnancy and after delivery—not to mention the health issues that can befall a puppy. Research suggests that one third of what a puppy becomes as an adult can be traced to its lineage/pedigree. Hence, all of these factors are important.

Puppy Lineage vs. Nurturing

While one third of what a puppy becomes can be traced to lineage, research also suggests that two thirds of what a puppy will become is related to the nurturing, socialization and experiences it encounters during its critical or sensitive stage of life. Project 2 Heal has long utilized a structured process of nurturing on our pups incorporating methods used by the United States Army Super Dog program, a technique called Puppy Prodigies and the findings of research that stress positive reinforcement training. Being able to leverage the nature-nurture paradigm has allowed us to donate puppies that have a significantly higher success rate than the shelter dogs. Based on feedback from our partners our pups have about a 60% to 65% placement-partnership rate compared to 8.25% success rate of dogs taken from shelters. Our longest standing partnership—Fidos for Freedom— has received 33 puppies from us as of this writing and 32 of them were placed as service dogs. While this is certainly an outlier and we credit this organization for the success, it does show that expertise in breeding and nurturing makes a huge impact during the service dog training process.

Here's the Bottom Line

Project 2 Heal is the only organization in the country addressing this issue. The larger the demand we're able to meet—and we currently serve over 25 organizations nationwide—the more we can help them increase our partners' efficiency. This means more trained service dogs changing or saving the lives of veterans, children with special needs, and adults with disabilities. The end result is the cost per placement goes down, allowing them to make more placements using the same amount of funding. More importantly, the greater efficiency our puppies create leads to less of a wait time for our veterans with PTSD.

With 22 veterans per day taking their own lives, it's our duty to improve the supply chain that bring them an effective medical device—a service dog.

This is especially true when we know from research by Purdue University that a service dog can help reduce cortisol levels, hyper-vigilance, night tremors, and outbursts of anger. These are the very symptoms of PTSD that can lead to suicide ideation. If we are able to get more of our world-class puppies to the many organizations that do not have a breeding program, our partners will be able to get service dogs to veterans in a shorter amount of time. This is how we can reduce the possibility of veteran suicide and allow the process of healing to begin more quickly.

A Breeding Program for Organizations In Need

When I last looked at one of their annual reports, Canine Companions for Independence—the largest service dog organization in the country—bred approximately 600 puppies per year. There are hundreds of smaller service dog organizations that could benefit from our help.

As I noted earlier the higher percentage of each organization’s needed pups we can provide, the more we can reduce the cost and wait time for a veteran to receive a service dog. In order to do this, we'll need to breed hundreds of puppies. Project 2 Heal's plan is to build what would amount to the U.S Service Dog Breeding Center. At this facility we would be able to greatly increase our work. We also want to have a place where veterans that have been waiting for a dog—and might be at increased risk—to have a place to stay so that they can come and help us work with our puppies. We have allowed veterans to come and work with our puppies in the past and at the end of each training session they had a group therapy session with a psychologist.

The most frequent response we received from veterans was that our puppies made them feel that they were part of a mission again.

Being able to bring veterans to our center and providing them a place to stay will give them a sense of hope and a renewed sense of purpose. The only reason the U.S. Service Dog Breeding Center doesn't exist yet our inability to generate the necessary donations to do so.

Here's How You Can Help:

Updated: 1 day ago

Who: Project 2 Heal

What: In-Person Open House Event Dates

When: Tuesday, August 16th at 7pm | Saturday, August 20th at 10am

Where: 7008 Providence Road South, Waxhaw, NC 28173

Why: Connecting with members of the Charlotte area looking to get involved in our work.

* We've added NEW DATES for September! Join us Tuesday, Sept. 13th or Saturday Sept. 17th! *

Project 2 Heal is excited to announce our FIRST-EVER Open House event dates! These limited availability events will provide people across the Charlotte region with an opportunity to learn about our organization by meeting members of our staff, touring our facility, and of course spending time with newborn puppies. Through these events, we intend to connect with members of our community and grow our dedicated network of support.

We’re seeking people looking to advance our work of breeding, nurturing, and donating Labrador Retriever puppies to become service dogs for people in need. If you’re passionate about helping veterans, children with special needs, and adults with disabilitieswe WANT YOU for Open House!

Tuesday, August 16th at 7pm | Saturday, August 20th at 10am

Open House events are expected to last approximately 1 hour and will begin with an engaging presentation by our President and Founder Charlie Petrizzo. After a successful career spanning nearly 20 years in the financial sector, Charlie and his wife Sandy began the full-time work of breeding, nurturing, and donating Labrador Retriever puppies to become service dogs in 2005.

Following the presentation, visitors will begin a guided tour of the facilities in which our trainers nurture our newborn puppies using scientifically proven development methods, including our Whelping Room and Puppy Experience Room. Plus, we’ll take visitors down to our kennel facility, in which we home future mother dogs and Started Service Dogs.

(Future mother dogs are kept at our facility, until found a home through our Chaperone Program.)

Project 2 Heal Open House is open to attendees at no cost, but we are seeking individuals who are seriously interested in becoming involved with Project 2 Heal. Open House attendees should be interested in learning how to make an impact in one more of the following ways:

  • Volunteering

  • Becoming a Monthly Donor

  • Becoming the Chaperone Owner of a Future Mother Dog

  • Becoming a Project 2 Heal Board Member

Limited Event Capacity

Due to limited parking, each Open House date is open to ONLY 10 registrants. (Don’t worry, a group of people traveling in 1 vehicle can still register as 1 registrant. But please let us know how many people to expect in your group.) If you are interested, please click here to complete our registration form.

*In accordance with our capacity limitations, we may exercise discretion in extending official invitations.

Learn More About Project 2 Heal

Registered as a nonprofit in 2011, Project 2 Heal began as a labor of love funded by founders Charlie and Sandy Petrizzo to utilize their love of animals to make a difference in the lives of veterans struggling with PTSD or physical disabilities. Recognizing that most service dog organizations have no breeding program (often leaving no choice but to train dogs taken from shelters) as well as the fact that only 1 out of 12 shelter dogs become successful service dogs, Project 2 Heal began working to fill this gap.

Our mission is to reduce the cost and time it takes to place a service dog with a person in need. We accomplish this by nurturing, socializing and training purpose-bred Labrador Retriever puppies, for donation, to carefully selected service dog organizations.


Click here to register for Open House!

Please join us for the 9th annual Putt for Pups golf tournament to benefit the work of Project 2 Heal! This year's outing is scheduled for Monday, October 3rd, 2022 with an 11:30am shotgun start. You will be helping to change lives by joining us for a great day of golf at the beautiful Firethorne Country Club in Marvin, NC. The event will include a 4-person scramble, box lunch, and Awards Dinner with silent auction following golf.

You will also have the opportunity for a meet and greet session with the Project 2 Heal puppies!

Registration Pricing:


Join Our Dedicated Group of Sponsorship Partners!

We're also seeking community-minded local businesses looking to make a difference in the lives of veterans, children with special needs, and adults with disabilities to join us as a Putt for Pups sponsoring partner! We have many levels of sponsorship opportunity available, each including a unique thank-you package!

All levels of sponsorship benefit our mission of reducing the cost and time needed to place a service dog with a veteran, child with special needs, or adult with disabilities.

View sponsorship opportunities available!


PLUS, Become a Puppy Board Sponsor!

Send us your FAVORITE photo of your dog and we'll add it to our Puppy Board photo collage! This is certainly a highlight each year and we look forward to "meeting" your pup. We display our Puppy Board during the golf event and throughout the year at our facility.

After claiming your sponsorship, email your dog's name and photo to sandy@project2heal.org.


Our mission is to reduce the cost and time necessary to place a service dog with a veteran, child with Autism, or adult with disabilities.


How Can You Help Further Our Mission?

When you donate only $5 per month, your contribution covers important expenses, including:

  • First vet visit for entire litter

  • 50 pounds of high-quality dog

  • 1 puppy eye exam

  • 6 bags of high-value reward training treats

  • 1 puppy-in-training service dog vest

As you can see, there are a number of ways that $5 monthly donations can make a real impact at Project 2 Heal. With an average cost of $5,000 to raise and train a puppy litter of puppies through the first 8 weeks of life, we'd love for you to join us on our mission.

Click below to become a donor at any level that works for you. We need your help to raise puppies and change lives.


$5 Monthly Donors

Our bread and butter (or should we say, "kibble?"), these donors cover items listed above, including first vet visits!

I Want to Cover Vet Visits!

$10 Monthly Donors

Each of our $10 monthly donors feeds an entire litter from birth to donation. (That's a lot of puppy food!)

I Want to Cover Vet Visits!

$25 Monthly Donors

$25 a month prevents fleas and ticks for a pup. With 30+ puppies expected in 2021, these donors mean the world!

Fleas and Ticks? Eww!