Pets for Vets Wisconsin was formed in 2012. We are a chapter of a national organization that was founded by Clarissa Black in 2009. Clarissa was bringing her dog to the VA hospital to do therapy work, and saw what a profound impact the dog had on the Veterans. She decided to take it a step further and start training dogs for Veterans to keep as pets, instead of only the short visits at the hospital. These are companion pets, so the Vets donâ€™t need to meet as many criteria as they would to qualify for service animals. Becky Peterson, a UW Madison graduate student, heard of the organization and decided to start a chapter here in the state. The Wisconsin chapter was the first in the Midwest. Any Veteran is eligible to apply for a pet.
Most applications are for dogs, but a few have been received for cats or birds as well. All of the animals are rescued from shelters, and then go to live with trainers who get the pet ready to be placed with the Veteran. Dogs are trained to Canine Good Citizenship standards, and some receive additional training based on the Veteranâ€™s specific needs. Each Veteran is given a Welcome Kit which includes all of the supplies needed to start life with their new pet. On match day, when the pet is revealed to the Veteran for the first time, the trainer comes to give the Vet the information he needs to execute the commands that the dog has learned. Chapter personnel continue to follow up with the Veteran to assist with any training concerns he or she has, refer them to affordable veterinary care, and advise on proper food and supplies to keep the pet healthy and happy.
The biggest challenge for our chapter is finding trainers for the dogs. We are in need of trainers throughout the entire state, as we have a very long waiting list of Veterans. Trainers do not have to have any specific certifications, and will be evaluated and vetted by the national level trainer before they are approved to start training for Pets for Vets. If you know of any experienced dog trainers who may be interested in training for Pets for Vets Wisconsin, please email the chapter director, Becky@petsforvetswisconsin.org. If you have any questions about the organization, please visit our website, petsforvetswisconsin.org. We look forward to continuing to serve Veterans in the state of Wisconsin.