Program pairs veterans with pets

ENCINITAS — The Rancho Coastal Humane Society recently partnered with Pets for Patriots to help military veterans find and afford companion pets.
The program is open to retired military, active duty military and military reserve.
“We’re the only organization that provides ongoing support to care for pets,” Beth Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Pets for Patriots, said. “That is what is distinctive about us.”
The physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership are numerous.
“Owning a pet reduces stress levels,” Zimmerman said. “Pets help people cope with loneliness and depression. And people who own a pet are more physically active, especially if they own a dog.”
Veterans who have adopted a pet through the Pets for Patriots program have reported that their pet has given them a renewed sense of purpose, a trusted friend and a reason to live.
Pet adoption does not work for everybody. In two instances a matched Pets for Patriots pet did not fit the family structure and was returned to the local shelter.
Generally the positive results for matches far outweigh the poor fits.
To help veterans find the right fit the Rancho Coastal Humane Society asks potential pet owners lifestyle questions.
“Do they want a running partner or a buddy to hang out on the couch with them?” Simran Noon, spokesperson for Rancho Coastal Humane Society, said.
The right pet may be a dog, cat or rabbit.
“Pet therapy animals aren’t limited to dogs,” Noon said. “Any pet qualifies.”
The program also helps with the costs of pet care and maintenance. “The whole goal is to make companion pet adoption affordable and achievable and in the
long term sustainable,” Zimmerman said.
On average a small dog costs about $1,300 a year to feed and provide with routine healthcare and grooming. A large dog costs about $1,800 a year and a cat costs approximately $1,000 a year. This does not include specialty care or surgery.
Military veterans pay the initial pet adoption fee to ensure they have the minimum financial means to take care of a pet. Then Pets for Patriots partner organizations help ease the financial burden.
Pet retailers give a yearly in-store gift card to veterans to help with pet costs.
Veterinarian partners help veterans with a 10 percent discount on animal medical services.
“We are actively looking for veterinarian partners in the community,” Zimmerman said.
Pets for Patriots is a national program that began in 2010. It is now in 19 states across the U.S.
“Our goal be in every state in three years,” Zimmerman said.
The local partnership between the Rancho Coastal Humane Society and Pets for Patriots began in January and there has already been a pet adoption through the program.
“Every community is a little different,” Zimmerman said. “People get to know about us through recruiting and veterinarian partners in community.”
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