Pets for Vets® at Animal Friends
Founded in 1943 as an avenue of support for soldiers leaving for World War II who had no place to safely leave their beloved companion animals, Animal Friends has a longstanding commitment to the brave individuals serving in our Armed Forces. Many troops return home with scars – both seen and unseen – that make it difficult to transition back to civilian life. These stresses come in many forms. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are the best known, but there are many others including family and relationship traumas, financial pressures, moral injury, toxic command, depression and countless others. As a result, data indicate that every day 22 veterans or active duty soldiers commit suicide. Nearly one every hour.
At the same time, we know millions of wonderful companion animals across the country capable of supporting a healing and meaningful relationship, wait in shelters for a loving home. To help address these combined needs and to strengthen our commitment to veterans, Animal Friends is pleased to serve as the Pittsburgh Chapter of Pets For Vets®. Under the auspice of the Maj. Benjamin Follansbee Memorial Fund, Pets for Vets® at Animal Friends offers a series of targeted adoption programs to support and thank our regional veterans. These options include providing specially selected, trained and fully certified companion dogs or occasionally cats to veterans who are felt to be at risk. These animals are provided completely free of charge including spaying or neutering, all vaccines and other necessary medical care, microchipping and follow up training after the dog is placed. We are also committed to matching any veteran with a companion animal while waiving the requested adoption donation.
The Maj. Benjamin Follansbee Memorial Fund
Maj. Follansbee was an Airborne Ranger who subsequently earned his coveted Special Forces tab and Green Beret, thereafter becoming a HALO Airborne Team commander and HALO Jump Master. He served on multiple deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, earning two bronze stars among numerous other commendations. He was described by his peers as being not only highly dedicated and accomplished, but also humble, loyal and compassionate.
Tragically, Maj. Follansbee took his own life in December, 2012. His parents, Dr. and Mrs. William Follansbee, know firsthand the alarming statistics about suicide in the military and the challenges that many veterans face as they transition from military duty to civilian life.
For that reason, the Follansbee family established the Maj. Benjamin Follansbee Memorial Fund and in partnership with Animal Friends founded the Pittsburgh Chapter of Pets for Vets®. Its mission is to help veterans while at the same time saving homeless shelter animals — one veteran and one animal at a time.
Individuals, businesses and groups are encouraged to consider a gift to the Maj. Benjamin Follansbee Memorial Fund to support Pets for Vets® at Animal Friends.
Animal Friends is the official Pittsburgh Chapter of Pets for Vets®. For veterans who are in need of a trained and certified companion pet,we carefully select a rescued dog or occasionally cat based upon its personality and instincts and match them to the needs and circumstances of each individual veteran. Once the appropriate companion animal is selected for the veteran, the pet undergoes specialized training by trainers who have earned appropriate certification. The trained animals must meet the challenging performance standards of Pets for Vets®. This includes not only basic and advanced commands but often training to become acclimated to the individual veteran’s circumstances, such as wheel chairs, oxygen equipment or other accommodation devices.
There is absolutely no charge to the veteran for this service. Their fully trained new pet will also be current on vaccines, spayed or neutered and microchipped for additional identification. A customized welcome package of supplies, complete with a lifetime Allegheny County dog license is included. And, through our new Animal Wellness Center, participants in the Pet for Vets® program are also offered discounted vaccines throughout the life of their pet.
We know that pets can be a powerful addition to any family. At Animal Friends, we are pleased to help any veteran or active duty military member find a new best friend (dog, cat or rabbit). Simply come to Animal Friends and bring along a military ID or DD214 form and we’ll get started. You will meet with one of our Adoption Counselors who will get to know you, gather information and find out what type of pet you are looking for. It is important that we know if there are any special needs or requests so the appropriate dog, cat or rabbit is matched with your unique family and home. Then the matchmaking will begin!
Consistent with every adoption through Animal Friends, your new pet will be current on vaccines, spayed or neutered and microchipped. For our veteran adopters, the pet is provided free of any charge. And, as an added benefit, throughout their lifetime the adopted pet will receive a discount on all vaccines at our Animal Wellness Center Clinic.
Other Ways to Help
United Way Giving
Our Pittsburgh chapter of Pets for Vets® is also supported in part by a designated donor fund through the United Way. This directed fund allows donors to make gifts to this important program through the United Way annual workplace giving program. Use code #12578787.
Trainers and Home-Based Training Partners Needed
If you love animals, have some level of training experience and want to help veterans – click here! We are currently accepting experienced and compassionate people like you to train shelter pets to be specifically matched with the veterans in our Pets for Vets® at Animal Friends program.
More comfortable working alongside a trainer? Become a Pets for Vets® Home-Based Training Partner. Training Partners are needed for home-based care of Pets for Vets® canines and felines while in training. The Training Partner will provide daily shelter and care and work collaboratively with the Pets for Vets® Trainer to help the canine or feline adjust to a home environment and ensure that good manners and training protocols are reinforced. Click here for more information.
Become a Pets for Vets® Ambassador
There are so many ways you can support our Pets for Vets® work at Animal Friends. From serving as an ambassador at community events to helping veterans through the adoption process, we have many volunteer opportunities. So if you are a veteran or someone for whom veterans issues are close to your heart, consider joining us as a volunteer!
To get started, click here to complete a general online volunteer application.
For questions about our Pets for Vets® program, contact Eric at:
PetsForVets@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org | 412.847.7030