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August 7, 2017

Veterans’ service dog group plans center in Fauquier

Contributed Photo
Semper K9 founder Christopher Baity and “Buster” conduct a community education event recently at a pet store in Prince William County.
We rescue dogs from shelters and train them to be service dogs.
— Semper K9 founder Christopher Baity
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A Woodbridge nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to wounded veterans plans to move to rural, southeastern Fauquier County.

Semper K9 Assistance Dogs last week bought 33 acres near Bristersburg and adjacent to the Quantico Marine Base for $255,000.

Founded in 2014, the organization has placed 27 service dogs with veterans, said Amanda Baity, who manages the nonprofit with her husband Christopher.

“We have been looking for the perfect place to call home for a while,” said Mr. Baity, Semper K9’s founder and executive director. “We are excited to have found this place and are looking forward to becoming part of the Fauquier community.”

A Marine combat veteran who completed three tours of duty in Iraq, Mr. Baity served as a military working dog handler, trainer and kennel master. People magazine in June published a short feature on the 8-year Marine veteran and his program.

Semper K9 plans to construct a 7,000-square-foot metal building on the Fauquier property, according to Mrs. Baity. The building will house training, meetings and offices, but the organization does not operate a kennel, she said.

“We rescue dogs from shelters and train them to be service dogs,” Mr. Baity explained. “Having this permanent location will allow us to save more lives and make a larger impact on our mission.”

Foster families raise puppies and take in some older dogs that undergo training for service work. The organization works with a variety of breeds but frequently employs Labrador retrievers.

Mr. and Mrs. Baity have met with county officials to review their plan. It remains uncertain whether they would need a zoning permit for the canine operation on the land, zoned for agriculture use, Mrs. Baity said.

Semper K9’s founder “knows what he’s doing and knows what the needs are,” said Fauquier County Economic Development Director Miles Friedman, who works with regional organizations that helps returning veterans.

A Manassas architect has donated his services to develop the site plan and building blueprints, Mrs. Baity said. Semper K9 estimates the land, building and development costs will total about $500,000. The organization has launched a fundraising campaign and has received pledges of funds and in-kind donations.

Golden Rule Builders of Catlett will construct the building. Mr. and Mrs. Baity also plan to build a home, at their cost, on the property.

“We had been looking for property for about two years and trying to stay in Prince William, because of our children in schools,” Mrs. Baity said. Driving home from Fauquier, “we saw the sign on Brent Town Road, which had just gone up. And, we were able to reach a deal.”

Semper K9, a 501(c)(3) organization, has more than 100 volunteers.

“Our main volunteers, aside from the operational staff, are K9 coaches,” said Tisa Newhouse, the organization’s volunteer coordinator. “Those are families who raise and train the dogs . . . . We also have need for construction and administrative volunteers, along with behind-the-scenes assistance.”

Mr. Baity said the organization has ambitious plans and “will need the community’s support to grow.”

He works full-time for the nonprofit. His wife volunteers with the organization but has other employment. The couple, both 35, have four children.
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