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Image via Kids and Canines/Facebook

The Kids and Canines program at Tampa’s Dorothy Thomas School pairs students with special needs with service animals in training--an initiative that provides an invaluable learning experience for both the children and the dogs.

“I’ve had kids who say I hate school. I hate you,” Kids and Canines executive director Kelly Hodges tells ABC Action News. “But they love their dogs.”

According to the outlet, many students in the program were labeled as being disruptive in other schools, and were thus asked to leave. At Dorothy Thomas School, however, these kids are welcomed with open arms.

The Kids and Canines program gives special needs students the opportunity to learn and practice behaviors that can be helpful for them later on in life--behaviors like compassion and empathy. The students also learn how to groom and train the dogs.

Not only are the kids benefiting from this program, but the dogs are as well. Many of the dogs in the Kids and Canines program come from animal shelters, and, by way of the program, are training to become service dogs. If the school year goes well, these ex-shelter dogs will be qualified to assist military veterans with PTSD or children with autism.

While the dogs are in training for the year, they will need foster homes. To learn more about this program and how you can get involved, visit

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