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Pets For Vets: Supporting Veterans and Dogs, A Match in Heaven


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Pets for Vets is a co-op effort of several organizations including Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s Comptroller Critters Adoption Program and the Anti Cruelty Society to pair U.S, military veterans with wonderful companions. The event kicked off on October 27 with a special day-long adoption event for veterans at Anti Cruelty underwritten by Fifth Third Bank. Vets for Pets was also their, appropriately.

I spoke at this event (my comments below), as did Comptroller Topinka, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza; Chicago Alderman Nick Sposato; Dr.Robyn Barbiers, president Anti Cruelty Society and from the Fifth Third Bank President and CEO Robert Sullivan, president and CEO. My friend, Janet Davies, from WLS-TV was the emcee.

Since 2011, through her Comptroller’s Critters Pet Adoption Program, Comptroller Topinka has assisted in 2,785 adoptionsOver 100 shelters, humane societies and animal control centers throughout Illinois participate in Comptroller’s Critters.

I’ve said most public officials ‘turn on’ when TV-cameras are around, Comptroller Topinka and Governor Pat Quinn (opposite sides of the political aisle) turn on when pets are around. It’s true – I’ve seen it.

At the event, I was honored to speak and noted that the U.S. Veterans Administration estimates that 400,000 ex-soldiers are currently being treated for post traumatic stress disorder syndrome with the numbers climbing daily.

“It’s not a made-up dysfunction – the VA certainly admits PTSD exists. And those numbers don’t count thousands more with traumatic brain injuries.

The rate of divorces, substance abuse and unemployment among veterans with PTSD exceed those in the general population. Suicide rates are off the map, with near 40 attempts daily – and around half that number succeed. What’s happening is tragic but is avoidable. .

The human-animal bond is an amazing thing…It’s amazing what pets can do for us! It is real.

We know by pairing with service dog with a veterans has lots of affects….

It makes a medical difference for veterans who make take fewer prescription drugs or lower dosages, which means fewer side affects and larger savings for everyone, including taxpayers. In fact, I believe  service dogs should be a prescription covered by insurance

Paired with a dog, veterans exhibit more  confidence that ‘someone likes me – no matter what mood I’m in.’ Also, when the bond is right the dogs can fend off panic attacks.

So, now that once debilitated veteran can get a part or full time job. and is someone contributing to society and not taking unemployment.

As smart as we are – we still haven’t figured out everything dogs know about us….

 (Many photos by Teresa Potasiak, office of the Illinois State Comptroller)

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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