Pets for Vets

Photo courtesy of Megan VanParis

With Veterans day coming up on November 11, we wanted to highlight an amazing charity called Pets for Vets, which pairs veterans returning home with a companion animal.

Pets for Vets was founded by Clarissa Black, who received her B.S. in Animal Science from Canisius College and a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology. While she initially started working with dolphins and learning advanced animal training techniques, she decided to further her experience by beginning work as a professional dog trainer. Through Clarissa’s dog training, she worked with veterans and their therapy dogs. Realizing how important animals can be for recovery and well-being, she founded Pets for Vets.

How does Pets for Vets work?

The Pets for Vets team interviews each veteran to determine what exactly they are looking for in a companion animal. The team also considers the veteran’s personality and lifestyle to make sure they make the perfect match. Each dog that is matched with a veteran is rescued from a shelter; so not only do the veterans get a second chance at happiness, the pets do, too!  Once the match is complete, the pet lives with one of the Pets for Vets trainers to learn basic obedience and other behaviors helpful to living with a new owner. Depending on the needs of the veteran, these other behaviors could include being comfortable with wheelchairs or assisting with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury. Any veteran who lives in one of the 24 states where Pets for Vets has a chapter is eligible to apply for a companion pet. There is one chapter that serves the Chicagoland area, but due to overwhelming requests they are unfortunately not taking any additional requests at this time.

How Pets for Vets helps

According to Pets for Vets, about 20 percent of veterans from the Iraq/Afghanistan war suffer from severe depression or PTSD. Veterans returning home after being on active duty can suffer from emotional wounds that are not always obvious to civilians. There are also roughly 5 million dogs and cats who are euthanized every year in shelters across the United States. These animals may have made excellent companions, but they were never given the chance to find their forever home. Shelter dogs who “need love, attention and are facing certain death” are the ones Pets for Vets seeks out to match with veterans. There have been studies about how companion animals can help people’s mental and physical health by reducing their stress, depression and anxiety levels; all of which are characteristic of veterans returning home.

For more information or to get involved with Pets for Vets, click here.