Atlanta United partners with America’s VetDogs to raise future service dog ‘Spike’


First-ever MLS club service dog will be trained and placed with disabled U.S. veteran
 
ATLANTA (Jan. 23, 2020) – Atlanta United today announced the club has partnered with America’s VetDogs, a New York-based nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to U.S. veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities. Through this partnership, Atlanta United will be co-raising Spike, a 12-week-old Labrador retriever, who will be trained in the Atlanta area for the next 14-16 months with the purpose of becoming a service dog.  Spike is the first service dog to represent a Major League Soccer club.

“One of the pillars of our club and a priority for the Blank Family of Businesses is giving back to the community,” Atlanta United President Darren Eales said. “It is always a privilege to be able to support our Armed Forces. This partnership allows us to be a part of a program that serves veterans while also educating our supporters and raising awareness about the incredible work of the America’s VetDogs organization. We are excited to welcome Spike into our family and can’t wait to introduce him to our fans.”

To learn more about the partnership and Spike’s journey, visit atlutd.com/pup. You can also follow him at @ATLUTDPup on Instagram and Twitter.

“America’s VetDogs is thrilled to partner with Atlanta United on co-raising the team and leagues’ first future service dog,” said John Miller, president & CEO of America’s VetDogs. “Atlanta United’s passion for supporting our nation’s heroes aligns with our mission to provide trained service dogs for veterans and first responders with disabilities. This opportunity offers a unique environment for Spike to grow and thrive in. A well-socialized puppy will have fewer adjustments to make when he returns back to VetDogs for advanced service dog training. When it’s time, that confidence will help someone with disabilities conquer any challenges they may face together as a team.”

During his initial training phase, Spike, named after Atlanta United’s “Golden Spike” tradition at its home matches, will live with an Atlanta-based volunteer puppy raiser selected by America’s VetDogs. Following his puppy raising, Spike will return to the America's VetDogs campus in Smithtown, New York, to begin his advanced service dog training with a certified service dog instructor. When his training is complete, Spike will be matched and placed with a veteran or first responder with disabilities. It costs over $50,000 to raise, train, and place one assistance dog; however, all of VetDogs’ services are provided at no charge to the individual.  Funding comes from the generosity of individuals, businesses, and community organizations.

Fans will have opportunities to interact with Spike at select Atlanta United matches and community events throughout the year as exposure to a variety of environments is necessary during the detailed training process.

For more on America’s VetDogs and ways to get involved, visit VetDogs.org.

PLAYER PROFILE
Name: Spike
Position: Service dog in training
Birthdate: Oct. 25, 2019 (age: 12 weeks)
Birthplace: Smithtown, New York
Nationality: USA
Breed: Yellow Labrador Retriever
Transaction: Atlanta United signs Spike Jan. 23, 2020

ABOUT ATLANTA UNITED
Atlanta United joined Major League Soccer in 2017 and won the 2018 MLS Cup in just its second season, the earliest an expansion team has won the title since 1998.  The club has set multiple league records including season tickets sales (36,000-plus), single-game attendance (72,548), single-season average (53,002) and total home attendance (901,033). Owned by Arthur M. Blank, and led by club President Darren Eales, Atlanta United plays its home matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For more information about Atlanta United, including how to purchase season tickets, visit: www.atlutd.com, and follow @ATLUTD.

ABOUT AMERICA’S VETDOGS
Since 2003, America's VetDogs (www.VetDogs.org) has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, VetDogs opened its programs to first responders, including fire, police, and emergency medical personnel. America's VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation and serves clients from across the United States. VetDogs relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs, and foundations to fund its mission to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence. It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog, but America's VetDogs provides its services completely free of charge to the individual. America's VetDogs has been accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International.