A Changemaker is a person or group that selflessly devotes their time and available resources in order to positively impact the lives of others in their immediate community.  In keeping with the mission of the Epic Change, Epic Thanks Tampa Bay seeks to identify one Tampa area Changemaker and amplify their voice and impact on the community.

It is with great pleasure that Epic Thanks Tampa Bay celebrated Mike Halley as the 2010 Tampa Bay area Changemaker.

Founded by Mike Halley, Halley’s K-9s for Veterans provides trained service and companion dogs for disabled Veterans.   Working with dogs that are donated to the program or rescued from a shelter, Halley’s K-9s trains veterans to care for their pets over a period of several weeks so the new teams can learn to work together as one.

Following his career as a United Stated Marine, Mike Halley spent much time dealing with issues for which he could not identify the cause.  It was not until 1988 that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he has spent the last twenty two years trying to learn how to live with his condition.  In March of 2007, Mike trained his Doberman pinscher, Porsche, to be his personal service dog, and this has led to making Mike’s life much so much better.  The following year was filled with other veterans asking him “Who trained your dog?” and “Can you train a dog for me?”

As a result, Mike founded Halley’s K-9s for Veterans in October of 2008, to provide obedient dogs to disabled veterans of all war eras, to help these veterans overcome their invisible disabilities in order to become more productive and functional, and also to inform the public of the need for service dogs other than Seeing Eye dogs.  Mike and his wife have spent $25K of their own money raising, feeding and training service dogs to give to disabled American Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other invisible disabilities.

The kennel is primarily funded through Mike’s disability check from the Veteran’s Administration as well as some minor donations from friends.  All dogs used are either donated to the program or rescued.  To date, Halley’s K-9s for Veterans has placed and/or trained twenty eight teams, and many of the service dogs placed have detected life-threatening illnesses or conditions for their new owners.

As this year’s Changemaker, Mike hopes to grow Halley’s K-9s for Veterans into the organization for placing well trained service dogs that perform life saving “miracles” on a regular basis.  Mike’s plans for Halley’s K9s include obtaining a used RV for housing veterans that live fifty miles away or more during their intensive training period with their new partner, using the funds to pay for the program’s veterinary bill, purchase additional agility equipment for the training of the dogs, equipping the kennel for winter weather and upgrading the physical facilities surrounding the kennel.