(LAS VEGAS) — A group of therapy dogs are being flown to Las Vegas to comfort survivors from Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, affiliated with Lutheran Church Charities, are helping survivors, families of victims, first responders and others after a suspected shooter Stephen Paddock opened fire during the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500.
“The key is for people to cry and for people to start talking about what they’re are going through, and it’s a key part of the healing process,” said Tim Hetzner, president and CEO of Lutheran Church Charities and founder of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries. “The great thing about the dogs, they’re unconditional, confidential and safe.”
“Dogs have an incredible sense of when somebody is hurting,” he added. “They’ll just come and lay themselves into somebody’s lap.”
Since the Vegas tragedy on Oct. 1, the dogs have visited schools, first responders and area hospitals.
They’ve also comforted families at the Las Vegas Convention Center as they waited to hear news of their loved ones, Hetzner said.
Hetzner started the organization in August 2008 with four dogs. It now has more than 130 dogs in 23 states who have responded to tragedies such as Sandy Hook, Orlando, the Dallas shootings and disaster response for Hurricane Harvey.
On Monday, the canines attended a candlelit vigil for the victims of the Vegas shooting and will attend another tonight with the police department.
They will also visit the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and the emergency call center to help relieve stress of hotel staff and 911 dispatchers, Hetzner said.
“We only go where we are invited and we never charge who we serve,” Hetzner added. “We try to put boots and paws on the ground within 24 hours.”
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