Lending A Hand To Our Vets And Their Pets

They didn’t have a “fruit salad” of medals but Punkin the tortoiseshell cat and Mazie the Australian Cattle Dog nonetheless served with distinction.

Both rescued animals became the beloved companions of American veterans and helped their owners battle depression, grief and day-to-day challenges of life as retired military personnel.

Punkin and Mazie were adopted through the Pets for Vets program of the Veterans Administration in San Francisco. Through the decade-old program, more than 170 adoptable dogs and cats have found homes with veterans.

“The elderly, who often experience disproportionate loneliness and loss, are especially well served by pets,” according to Pets for Vets founder Dr. Russell Lemle, chief psychiatrist at the San Francisco VA facility. “Studies have suggested that pet owners have fewer annual visits to physicians, take less medication, recuperate better from certain surgeries and take more walks,’ he explained.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control proves the medical benefits of pet ownership, including decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. (As a side note, my own family witnessed this firsthand when, after my grandmother died, Grandpa took care of my dog Alasdair during the work week. A shy World War I veteran, Grandpa got to meet neighbors and loved introducing them to Al.)

To learn more about Pets for Vets, contact Russell Lemle at Russell.Lemle@va.gov or Alexandra Harrison at Alexandra.Harrison@va.gov.

As Veterans Day approaches, harnesslife.org thanks all veterans for their service to our country and has compiled a list of resources for vets in search of animal companions and those in need of a helping hand to care for their pets.

Animal Adoption Programs for Veterans


This program helps returning service men and women to adopt a dog or cat from an animal shelter when they return home or to bring home a pet rescued during their deployment. Guardians of Rescue volunteers act as a special shelter liaison, helping with selection, completion of the adoption process, and training for both the animal and owner.


Pets for Patriots is a nationally-operating charity dedicated to saving lives through companion pet adoption for service and veteran members of the United States military. The group works with rescue groups to pair at-risk shelter dogs and cats with veterans in need of a loving, therapeutic companion pet.

According to the organization, to ensure these bonds are healthy and enduring, Pets for Patriots reduces the overall costs of pet ownership for military personnel through access to ongoing discounted veterinary care, contributions toward the purchase of pet food and other essentials and sponsor-provided pet discounts. Pets for Patriots welcomes any armed forces member at any stage of their careers.


Vets Adopt Pets is a national program of contributors, shelters and rescues that work together to pay the animal adoption fee for veterans and active military. The group also helps military personnel who are dog handlers.


Founded in 1943 to support soldiers leaving for World War II who had no place to safely leave their beloved animal companions, Animal Friends continues to support the powerful bond between humans and animals. The group offers adoption programs targeted to support – and thank – those who have served our country while also finding loving homes for the animals in their care.

Other Types Of Assistance for Veterans & Their Pets

The Big Hearts Fund: financial assistance for the diagnosis and treatment of canine and feline heart disease

Brown Dog Foundation: assistance with prescription medication costs

Canine Cancer Awareness:  a veterinary charity

Joshua Louis Animal Cancer Foundation: Under the JLACF’s bylaws as approved by the IRS, grants can only be provided for pets under the care of a board-certified veterinary oncologist.

Magic Bullet Foundation: helps people who have made room in their homes and hearts for a canine companion, but do not have the financial resources to provide cancer treatment.

The Onyx & Breezy Foundation: This group offers a number of programs including when medical hardships exist and help for veterans suffering from PTSD

Pets of the Homeless: pet food and veterinary care assistance for homeless pet owners

The Riedel & Cody Fund: support for pets suffering with cancer

Top Dog Foundation “Bentley Grant” : for senior dogs (age 10 and over; breed taken into consideration when determining what is “senior”)

In addition, New Jersey-specific organizations that provide assistance include Animal Alliance in Belle Mead (pet food, supplies, vaccination assistance), Companion Animal Advocates of Hillsdale (pet food, rehoming assistance), New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance (veterinary care assistance) and First Presbyterian Church Of Sparta Pet Ministry (pet food bank). PetPALS of Southern New Jersey offers veterinary care assistance for senior, disabled or ill pet owners.

Many of these groups also offer discounted spay/neuter services. If you know of other organizations or programs that provide assistance for our Veterans and their pets, please let us know by commenting below.

Posted in Education & Information, Shelters & Rescues and tagged , , .

Bryna Elder-Munro affectionately refers to her home as the "petting zoo", reflecting her status as "mom" to rescued dogs, cats and guinea pigs. Well, the pigs call her "The Maid." A former award-winning journalist, Bryna is now a licensed massage therapist, Reiki practitioner and canine massage therapist. She, her wife and their four-legged brood live in rural Hunterdon County.

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