The Vettes4Vets nonprofit and Two By Two Rescue group are partnering together to pair military veterans with rescue dogs and cats at no cost to the veterans.
The idea is to provide a loving and safe home for an animal that needs it while at the same time providing companionship and/or therapy for military veterans who sometimes struggle to re-engage in society after their service time ends, said Mark Davis, the founder of the Vettes4Vets organization and current board member who came up with the idea for the partnership.
John Sellers serves on the board of directors for both organizations and presented the idea and won a commitment from both boards to pay the costs necessary to get eight homeless animals ready for adoption by veterans this year.
It costs about $300 to get an animal neutered or spayed and make sure it has all the shots it needs before being placed in a home, said Sonya King, the founder of Two By Two Rescue.
So Vettes4Vets committed up to $1,000 this year, and Two By Two Rescue has committed to provide enough money to pair eight animals with eight veterans this year.
“For us, it’s a trial,” said Gary Nelson, chairman of the board for Vettes4Vets. If the effort is successful, Vettes4Vets will try to find more money and get more people involved in it, he said.
The benefit to the animals is pretty obvious because they get a home and someone to care for them, Nelson said. But the veterans also get benefits out of it, he said.
Many veterans suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder, which can include symptoms such as intrusive flashbacks, avoidance, hypervigilance and sleep deprivation. The stress of recovering from military experiences and re-entering civilian life also can lead to physical problems, such as pain or cardiorespiratory or gastrointestinal issues, and psychological struggles that include emotional withdrawal, relationship strains and heightened risk of suicide.
Studies have shown that putting a trained PTSD service dog with a veteran can result in a clinically significant reduction in the severity of PTSD symptoms for the veterans, as well as improved mental, social and emotional health.
King said Two By Two Rescue is excited about the new partnership with Vettes4Vets because Two By Two has always tried to show appreciation to veterans who may not have the support system they need and help them recover from what they experienced while serving the country.
In the past, Two By Two Rescue has provided companion dogs or emotional support dogs for veterans at either a discounted rate or free of charge when a person’s veteran status was made known to the group, King said. Now, it’s good to have an official partnership with a group that serves veterans, she said.
Two By Two Rescue is prepared to continue offering companion animals or emotional support animals to veterans, but the rescue group is taking it a step further. Two By Two has just formed a new partnership with a company in Denver called Service Dogsz that trains dogs to do specific things to help veterans with PTSD.
Two By Two is willing to send some of its rescue dogs out to Denver to be trained by this company and will raise money to cover expenses for the training, King said.
The partnership with Vettes4Vets was just getting under way at the beginning of February. Vettes4Vets is putting the word out among other veteran groups that rescue animals are available at no cost for veterans in need, and Vettes4Vets will connect the veterans with Two By Two on a case-by-case basis, Davis said. There are no stringent criteria to be met, he said.
Anyone who knows of a veteran who could benefit from a rescue animal or who would like to contribute monetarily to the effort can contact Nelson at 205-215-9065.
For more information about the use of animals to help military veterans and vice versa, visit the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans at servicedogs4vets.org.