How a dog breeder is helping veterans with PTSD

Chocolate Labrador

When Dan Labonte and his wife started Lucky Labs in 2006, he didn’t yet know how impactful his breeding service for Labrador retrievers would be. But that was before the retired Canadian Forces veteran, who served four years in West Germany in the eighties, bred Patty.

As Labonte explains, it all began when a retired colonel from Ottawa requested a dog on behalf of an organization looking to help a Canadian veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The organization – Citadel Canine Society– took Patty under their wings, where she became Lucky Lab’s first service dog. Citadel Canine then asked Labonte to donate other dogs that they would train to help additional vets. Labonte and Lucky Labs – located near Wallaceburg, Ontario – has never looked back.

“I thought, ‘this is great, it’s right up my alley’,” recalls Labonte of that conversation, sharing how his army buddies were relocated to Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan when his post ended. “They got messed up,” Labonte says, choking back tears. Being able to help vets who are now suffering due to the painful experiences they encountered overseas is what makes the initiative so special.

Being able to break down stigmas is special too. Labonte explains how he always posts a Facebook photo of each vet that adopts a dog. “They [people in the community] recognize him and get that it’s the guy next door,” he says. “They see that PTSD is an injury like any other.”

It’s why Labonte has committed to donate $6000 in service dogs and services each year – with the help of some fundraising. “It [the program] is now the focus of the business,” says Labonte. “It gives me a great feeling.”
Every dog they donate is the cream of the crop, he adds, the smartest, healthiest and most responsive dogs they breed. Once a dog is chosen to be donated to a veteran, Citadel Canine steps in to provide the PTSD-focused training and to place them in their permanent homes – where they quickly become invaluable.

For example, a dog will recognize if a vet is having a nightmare and will wake them up to stop the suffering. When a vet is standing outside, the dog will face backwards in order to guard their owner from potential danger they may fear is lurking behind them. “They know how to calm you down, to catch you before you go over the edge; it’s amazing what they can do,” says Labonte.

As for the vets themselves, Labonte says the feedback has been tremendous. “They write to me saying, ‘the dog saved my life’; it’s wonderful.”


I learned about the fabulous work of Lucky Labs when I adopted an adorable chocolate lab, Hunter (pictured), from their kennel recently. As a lawyer who represents people suffering the effects of PTSD who have had their insurance benefits wrongfully denied, I applaud their efforts and wanted to help support them. If you or a loved one suffers from PTSD and you want to learn about how a dog can help, or if you simply want to donate to the special program at Lucky Labs, visit their website here.

If you’ve been denied benefits from your insurance company due to your PTSD, please reach out to myself or HSH. With decades of experience in personal injury law, Howie, Sacks & Henry is proud of our dedicated team of lawyers who work hard to help people and their families recover the benefits and compensation they deserve.

For more information or to speak about a denial of short- or long-term disability benefits, please contact Brad Moscato, Past Chair of the LTD Section, Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, at 416-646-7655 or

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