Florida veteran who lost service dog ran into issues getting new one, matched with new dog

ORLANDO, Fla. — In October, Channel 9 spoke to a veteran who lost his service dog and ran into issues getting a new one.


The state is investigating the breeder while a nonprofit has stepped in to help the vet.

When we first met U.S. Army vet Thomas Broadway, he was struggling because his service dog died.

Broadway suffers from PTSD, and without his dog “Zeus,” he doesn’t want to leave his house.

“I get panic attacks. It’s hard, and it can be hard on me,” he said. “He was basically my security. With him around, I felt comfortable going out in public. I didn’t realize what all he did for me until he passed away.”

Read: Disabled Central Florida vet still looking for a dog, but needs money back first

Broadway got a new service dog named Fred, but Fred wasn’t a good fit, so he took him back.

The breeder promised Broadway a new dog from an expected litter but eventually had to refund him his money.

He thought he was out of luck, but after our initial report, emails flooded in from the service dog community offering to help, and last month, Broadway was matched with a new service dog, “Radar.” He said Radar picked him; he did not pick Radar.

Radar came from Valor Medical Service Dogs in Central Florida.

Read: Florida appeals court upholds ruling allowing dogs bars to stay open

Owner Ernie Rivera is an Iraq War veteran who knows how important these dogs can be.

“The dog actually is like a battle buddy,” he said. “So, being a veteran, one of the things they teach you during the whole time is always lookout like I got your six, right, you always have a battle buddy. So it’s you and your buddy, right. So you’ll always have this thing where you’re looking out for your buddy and your buddies looking out for you.”Once they make that connection with you, no matter what happens, they’re always there for you.”

Radar is already trained and has bonded with Broadway.

Read: State lawmaker propose a new state bird for Florida

“It’s just so much better,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been out more since Nov. 11, when we got him. I’ve been out more than the previous five months since my other dog died.”

Rivera does not take money for his dogs. Instead, people donate to his nonprofit, allowing him to care for these German Shepherds, and in turn, it allows for the care of these veterans who are in need.

“I always have dogs available for veterans for a triage situation... that’s our number one mission is to reduce veteran suicide,” Rivera said.

Broadway is still fighting the other breeder.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has charged the breeder for selling a dog without a health certificate.

Her attorney did not return our request for comment, but that case heads to court this month.

Click here to download our free news, weather and smart TV apps. And click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Comments on this article