Interview: Project K-9 Hero Founder, Jason Johnson πŸŽ–οΈ

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I’m happy to share my interview with Jason Johnson, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit, Project K-9 Hero Foundation. This wonderful organization helps retired military working dogs.

Johnson explained that Project K-9 Hero was formed in March of 2016, to assist retired Police K-9 and Military Working Dog Heroes with medical care, food, and death benefit assistance.

Project K-9 Hero Foundation

Project K-9 Hero also helps rehabilitate and rehome heroes who no longer have a home to go to after they retire. Johnson’s mission started from his service in the military, police, federal law enforcement, and international K-9 industry.

Johnson realized that all of the hundreds of dogs he trained or worked with were not getting the necessary care they deserved in retirement. He worked to change the situation.

Project K-9 Hero’s mission it to protect those who protected our families, communities, and our America.

Johnson’s vision is to ensure the best quality of life for our nation’s retired Military Working Dogs and Police K-9 Heroes through providing assistance with medical costs, food, and end of duty services.



Tell us about the Project K-9 Hero Foundation.

We are a national nonprofit that focuses on retired Police K-9 and Military Working Dog Heroes having the retirement that they deserve for their service to our country.

How many dogs have you helped since starting Project K-9 Hero? Have you always been an animal lover or did it happened when you joined the military?

To this date we have assisted 72 retired Police K-9s and Military Working Dogs.Tell us about the Project K-9 Hero Foundation.

I grew up with dogs and animals and was drawn to the profession once I enlisted in the US Army.

Funding Needed: Military and Working Dogs

What are some of the myths about military and working dogs?

That the government pays for their medical in retirement, when they do not.
That every hero has a good home to go to when they retire, when not every one of them does.

I first heard about Project K-9 Hero on National K-9 Veterans Day. How were you involved in that project?

We have worked with our sponsors at Spectrum Brands and DreamBone the last several years to help spread awareness for that date and our mission.

We are a national nonprofit that focuses on retired Police K-9 and Military Working Dog Heroes having the retirement that they deserve for their service to our country.


β€œMilitary working dogs continue to serve and sacrifice” (2018) source: jbsa.mil

Are there any federal grants or funding sources for retired military and working dogs?

There are some private foundations that help us with small grants to help pay medical bills for our retired K-9s, but we are looking at the K-9 Hero Act is being the premier source of funding for retired Military Working Dogs and Federal Police K-9s.

The K-9 Hero Act

Tell us about your legacy project, the K-9 Hero Act of 2019. What is it and how can other pet lovers help?

For the last three years Project K-9 Hero has been working on the K-9 Hero Act in coordination with Congressman Ron Wright and his office. Right now Project K-9 Hero, Congress, and the Senate are gathering support to take this bill to a vote.

The K-9 Hero Act was a vision we had at Project K-9 Hero over many years on how we can take funding from the federal government and help give that to non-profits to spend on medical bills for retired federal K-9s.

This bill will allow for any military working dog or federal law enforcement K-9s to seek services through non-profits like Project K-9 Hero and allow us as an organization to take in grant money to spend specifically on medical bills for those dogs.

This bill will allocate $5,000,000 of federal grant funds each fiscal year from 2021 through 2025.


United States Postal Service stamps honoring the nation’s brave and loyal military service dogs (2019)

The future of retired working dogs with respect to ownership and provision of medical services is often unclear and the medical treatment required by many former working dogs is significant enough that it creates a hardship for the individuals, often former partners, who take in these canine heroes. At Project K-9 Hero we set in to fill this gap.

This bill will help us at Project K-9 Hero free up some of our other donations where we can help spend it on a deputy sheriff dog or a state police dog or a city dog.

Not only does it impact our federal community but it will impact our local and state communities as well.

For me it’s a legacy as the Founder of Project K-9 Hero. I want to make sure that the work is being carried on for generations to come.

It’s time our government take into consideration that if we’re going to use them and treat them like heroes when they’re on duty and during their service that we’re going to treat them the same way in retirement.

Supporting the K-9 Hero Act

We encourage dog lovers to reach out to your Senator or Congressman to ask them to support H.R. 5081, the K-9 Hero Act.

These heroes spent their entire careers projecting us. Now it’s our turn to protect them. Here’s the link to read the status of this bill.

Who are your biggest allies supporting the K-9 Hero Act?

Congressman Ron Wright and his staff have been by far the most supportive. When I brought this idea to Washington D.C., I pitched this idea to his Chief if Staff, at the time serving Congressman Joe Barton.

For several years, I continued to push this idea to his staff, even after Congressman Wright took over for Barton until we got it introduced. Without their continued support and their belief in me this bill would have never happened.

Another co-sponsor of the bill is Congressman Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence.


Indiana Congressman Greg Pence with K-9 Axel

Are there other organizations similar to Project K-9 Hero? Do they support the K-9 Hero Act?

Yes, American Humane and Paws of Honor also help pay medical bills for retired K-9 Heroes or Military Working Dogs.

We work with both of those organizations closely and they were both present when the bill was released in Washington D.C. We will continue to support each of their organizations as much as possible for the loyalty that they have shown us as an organization.

Our partners at American Humane have been instrumental in helping us spread the word about the K-9 Hero Act through the media and legislative contacts.

How can dog lovers promote the K-9 Hero Act?

Dog lovers can visit this link on our website to look up their Congressman or Senator. We also have a guide for tips on what to say to them all right there.

We need bipartisan support to get more co-sponsors for our bill. Once enough support is gained from both the Senate and the House, the bill can go up for a vote. Along with sharing our page with other dog loving supporters, contacting their representative is the best way to show your support.


Staff Sgt. Radames Leon and Pako are a 96th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force)

Ambassador K-9 Flash

Tell us about Flash, your Ambassador for Project K-9 Hero.

K-9 Flash became my Police K-9 Partner at the Yakima Police Department in 2005. I was able to get her back in retirement in 2013 after I had left the department for Federal Law Enforcement in 2008. Having her in her golden years inspired me to start Project K-9 Hero to help other retired K-9 Heroes like her.

Unfortunately, Flash passed away on May 13th, 2019 at 15 years old.


Ambassador Flash

Ambassador Flash

Flash was the perfect Ambassador – she was a wonderful dog and companion. Did Flash win any awards for her years of service?

In 2018, Flash was named the Law Enforcement Dog of the Year through the Hero Dog Awards. The event was shown on the Hallmark Channel and hosted by American Humane. This was a national vote of millions of participants held throughout the nation.


2018 Hero Dog Awards

Are you planning to write another book about Flash, your K-9 Hero Ambassador?

My first book, K-9 Flash Becomes a Hero, was a huge success. I am currently working on my second book, “K-9 Flash, a Hero’s Hero,” which highlights her rise becoming the Law Enforcement Dog of the Year in America.

I also have a third book in the works, “K-9 Axel Goes to Congress,” which will depict our journey into making the K-9 Hero Act a reality.



Rewards and Challenges

What are the greatest rewards and challenges of running your nonprofit?

We are honored to get a lot of recognition from other organizations such as NASDAQ, Hallmark Channel, and American Humane as a reward. Helping a retired K-9 Hero who otherwise may have been put down without our assistance is priceless.

The challenge is getting up everyday and finding new ways to inspire supporters to donate to our charity. There are many great organizations out there to donate to. But it is my job to convince them why our mission is one that they should consider.


Jason Johnson and K-9 Axel

Do you work with any veterinary schools or do you have a veterinarian on staff as needed?

DVM Kenneth Lust is on our Board as our Medical Director and assists is with making major medical decisions on the dogs in our program or potential new members.

We have two annual scholarships at the high school level and at the university level that assists students studying to become a veterinarian or a veterinary technician:

  1. The Jodi Johnson Memorial Scholarship to remember my sister, Jodi. She was a smart and outgoing woman who excelled in athletics, academics, music, and community involvement. Jodi was also a lifelong animal lover who was an outspoken evangelist for our work at Project K-9 Hero.
  2. University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Scholarship created to support graduate students who are going into their second year or beyond in veterinary school and who supports the cause of supporting retired Police K-9s and Military Working Dogs.

Jodi Johnson

How to Help Project K-9 Hero

What are three takeaways you can give our readers about Project K-9 Hero?

The cost to maintain a retired K-9 Hero can be very expensive. Not every handler has the financial ability to cover those medical bills. Project K-9 Hero covers those costs at 100% for our program members.

Not every K-9 gets to stay with their handlers in retirement. Due to a variety of circumstances they may need a home to go to once their service has ended. Project K-9 Hero helps rehabilitate and rehome K-9s who may need this service.

We are a 100% nonprofit organization operating off of individual donors and corporate sponsors. Animal lovers can make a donation directly to “Protect Those Who Protected Us.”

Can people adopt retired K-9 dogs? Tell us about the adoption process.

Yes we have an in-depth application process on our website. We carefully vet out each potential applicant and post K-9s when they become available on our social media pages.

What are your long-term goals for Project K-9 Hero?

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Yes. Please take a moment to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

We are in the process of building our rehabilitation and rehoming center and are seeking donations and corporate sponsors. To learn more about it, please visit our Project K-9 Hero Rehabilitation & Rehoming Facility campaign page.


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jason Johnson!

Thanks for stopping by!
Dr. Pet Mom

“A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.”
–Ogden Nash

Top image source: β€œThe Splash” Person of the Week: Jason Johnson of Project K-9 Hero (modified by @SocialClaude)
All other images: Project K-9 Hero (processed by @SocialClaude)

2 thoughts on “Interview: Project K-9 Hero Founder, Jason Johnson πŸŽ–οΈ”

  1. He is a wonderful person who has given so much to this project. We are blessed to know his parents who are wonderful people. God Bless him and his love for what he is doing.

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