University of South Florida

Tampa DogFest walk at USF Health will help raise funds for canine companions and service dogs

USF Health is once again hosting the Tampa DogFest Walk ‘n Roll™ to benefit the Canine Companions for Independence program.

The year’s event is Feb. 12 and continues the annual effort to help raise funds and awareness for service dogs and canine companions. The USF Health event will include a walk, silent auction, vendors, police and sheriff K-9 units, dog agility demonstration, a kids’ activity zone, a DJ with music and, of course, visiting service dogs and future service dogs (puppies!).

DogFest 2015 at USF Health.

Canine companions and service dogs are necessities for many people who are disabled and they help with daily living – from navigating to retrieving items to sensing that blood sugar levels are dropping. These unique animals are trained to help children, adults and veterans live more independently, said Karen Burdash, associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and a longtime proponent for rescuing and training therapy dogs.

“There are challenges people with disabilities face every day and canine companion assistance dogs can be the difference for those with limitations, helping them re-engage with society and achieve the range of needs found in daily living,” Burdash said.

“These dogs are highly trained to assist children and adults with disabilities, including veterans with physical disabilities. I’ve been told by someone who was matched to a service dog ‘I wouldn’t have a life if it wasn’t for this dog!’ ”

Canine Companions for Independence provides highly trained assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities, including veterans with physical disabilities. There is no charge to the recipient for the dog but training and on-going follow-up services end up costing about $50,000 per dog. Following months-long intensive training, a dog is matched with a recipient, who has also undergone evaluation. Then, when a match is made, both dog and recipient have ongoing training together.

The USF Health DogFest 2017 Walk ‘n Roll is aiming to raise at least that $50,000 to help with a local match, Burdash said.

There are several ways to help, most of which start at the Canine Companions website. Donations can be made directly, or you can start your own team and begin collecting sponsorships and donations. You can also provide items and services that can be included in the gift baskets that will be auctioned off for funds.

You can also donate at the event, which is where you can meet some of the many folks benefiting from these service dogs, as well as those who help raise and train canine companions.

The key thing, Burdash said, is to come out to the event and support the effort.

“Bring your own pet on a leash if you want, bring the kids, and join the fun,” she said. “Come on out and help us raise funds to bring a dog to someone in need. It will be a great day for a worthy organization.”


Tampa DogFest 2017 Walk ‘n Roll

Sunday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At USF Health, east side of CMS building on the corner of Bruce B. Downs and USF Holly.

The free event is open to the community. Donate or register a team at




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