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Nonprofit seeks to pair military veterans with rescued dogs

Carl Prine | San Diego Union Tribune

American Humane wants military veterans to apply for its “Shelter to Service” program, an initiative that pairs victims of the hidden wounds of war with dogs rescued from pounds nationwide.

Founded in 1877 in Cleveland to boost the welfare of animals, American Humane will provide free of charge specially-trained service dogs to victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The idea is to harness the healing powers of the human-animal bond to help veterans avoid depression, social isolation and suicide.

“Specially trained service dogs can reduce stress and anxiety levels, mitigate depression, ease social reintegration, provide comfort, and restore confidence in affected veterans,” said American Humane president Robin Ganzert in a news release. “We’re honored to help save more lives on both ends of the leash, and we encourage any veteran in need of a service dog to apply to the Shelter to Service program.”

Numerous obstacles stand in the way of veterans getting service dogs. Waiting lists are long and the process can be expensive, with training costing up to $20,000 per canine, according to the nonprofit.

Veterans are encouraged to visit Washington, D.C.-based American Humane online to complete the application. Those without a computer can telephone Tara Loveland at (202) 677-4220. The deadline is Jan. 15.

American Humane has been linked to the military for a century. In World War I, the War Department — the forerunner to today’s Department of Defense — asked the organization to send volunteers to Europe to rescue and care for more than 68,000 wounded war horses each month.

The organization’s Lois Pope LIFE Center for Military Affairs runs the “Help Bring All Heroes Home” program, which reunites military working dogs used overseas with their handlers back in the United States. Philanthropist Pope also sponsors annual awards that recognize canines nationwide that do extraordinary work in the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, therapy services and other categories.

Service Animals