SAN ANTONIO – A little over a year after San Antonio residents voted to approve millions of dollars in funding to expand the footprint of K9s For Warriors here, the organization has instead laid off some of its staff.
The Florida-based nonprofit, which calls itself the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for veterans, confirmed the staff reductions in a written statement to KSAT on Friday.
“To make our organization more fiscally sound and remain fully committed to our mission, I had to make the very tough decision to reduce our staffing. We value our team members who have contributed so much to our mission and the veterans we serve, which makes this decision even more difficult. Approximately 20 team members across our Florida and Texas campuses were affected and are being offered resources to help with their transition. I say ‘approximately’ as some team members were offered new positions and may or may not accept. In addition, all senior leadership, including myself, have taken voluntary pay cuts to further K9s For Warriors’ financial stability. This reduction in staffing will not impact our ability to continue pairing Warriors with high quality Service Dogs,” K9s For Warriors Chief Executive Officer Carl Cricco said via email.
K9s For Warriors has four locations: the Petco Love K9 Center in West San Antonio and three facilities in Florida.
A spokesperson for the group declined to say how many San Antonio employees were laid off as part of the staff reductions.
San Antonio voters in May 2022 approved $2.25 million in facilities bond money to expand the 5,000-square-foot Petco Love K9 Center, located adjacent to Animal Care Services along State Highway 151.
The plan called for the funds to be matched by the charity using grants and private funding, and would more than double the number of kennels on the property.
Fifteen to 20 additional full-time positions were to be added as a result of the expansion, bond presentation records obtained by KSAT showed.
At the time the bond project was on the ballot, the organization employed 28 people in San Antonio.
The proposal was approved by voters, despite consternation from some members of the community, including a facilities bond committee member who told KSAT last year the service dog organization had an “abysmal track record” in San Antonio.
Committee member Kerri Neff told KSAT last year she ultimately agreed to include the project in the facilities bond out of fear that larger public safety projects would be impacted if the committee continued to squabble over the smaller service dog program expansion.
Records uncovered by KSAT prior to the bond election showed the organization provided an inflated figure to city staff on how many dogs had been pulled from ACS and rescued.
Previous K9s For Warriors CEO Rory Diamond at the time called the discrepancy “certainly nothing intentional.”
District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez, who spearheaded efforts to get K9s For Warriors established in San Antonio, told KSAT in a written statement:
“Before COVID, this was the preeminent organization in America for matching of veterans to dogs. The City Council structured this deal with K9s for Warriors in a manner that would minimize San Antonio’s losses in the event of non-fulfillment of the contract. Thankfully, those protections remain in place. Nonetheless, I’m disappointed that this organization is facing these challenges.”
City officials on Friday confirmed construction on the project, which will be managed by K9s For Warriors, has not started.
Diamond, who defended the group’s efforts in San Antonio in a previous interview with KSAT, stepped down from the nonprofit late last year.