This Pets and Vets Program Is Changing Veterans' Lives
Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2018
Animals can heal – and when it comes to coping with service-related mental health concerns, service dogs are instrumental. One innovative pet program pairs rescue dogs with veterans who are coping with anxiety, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health-related issues. The program “saves lives at both ends of the leash,” rescuing dogs from being put down while improving the quality of life of veterans.
Learn more about this "Pets and Vets" program and the positive impact it’s having on the lives of U.S. veterans.
Pets and Vets: Rescuing Each Other
An innovative pet rescue program from Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) matches military veterans with mental health-related issues to emotional support and service animals and provides them with free veterinary wellness clinics.
The dogs and veterans then become a true team as they bond and train under the guidance of a skilled trainer, who is also a U.S. veteran. The team learns skills together that can help the veteran cope with a disability, which could include alerting him or her to an oncoming panic attack or the ability to interrupt PTSD-induced nightmares.
Executive Director of ARF, Elena Bicker, says that ARF is proud to save lives at "both ends of the leash." She states:
“We’re taking an animal off death row and matching it with a veteran who is struggling with PTSD. It changes both their lives.”
ARF Founder, Tony La Russa, came up with the "Pets and Vets" idea, which grew out of his desire to serve those who serve. He began making regular visits to Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals offering free care to vets’ animals and the idea was born.
Bicker says of ARF, “We already knew what the magic of an animal can do... pairing them with vets was a natural.”
Nearly 500,000 service members are diagnosed with PTSD each year. Thus far, ARF has placed more than 600 animals with military and veteran families and would love to expand their program to veterans across the country.