Edinboro University’s Student Veterans Association provided students, staff and community members with the opportunity to adopt from and donate to several local animal shelters at the organization’s second annual Pets For Vets Veteran’s Fair last Wednesday.
The Veteran’s Day event was held in the Pogue Student Center and hosted various local adoption centers, shelters and other organizations who support the Pets For Vets program. Pets For Vets is a national 501(c)3 non-profit animal welfare organization that provides military veterans who are struggling with physical or emotional injuries with animal companionship.
The program was first established in California in 2009 by professional animal trainer Clarissa Black. Black designed the program to match each veteran with an animal companion based on his or her personality. Based on this process, various shelters across the nation participate by selecting animals that correlate to a veteran’s personality.
Locally, the A.N.N.A. Shelter in Erie has matched four animals — three cats and one dog — for the Pets For Vets organization.
A.N.N.A Shelter Community Outreach Representative, Becky Bogle, shared that the A.N.N.A. Shelter is one of two nation-wide shelters that operates specifically for the Pets For Vets program. Bogle explained that other local animal adoption organizations partake in the Pets For Vets program, but have a different matching process than a shelter.
“How the Pets For Vets program works not in a shelter is that you have people who are with the chapters that go into shelters, select dogs based on a criteria, and then they [the dogs] are placed into the program. Then they are matched with a veteran application,” Bogle said.
Bogle also shared that the A.N.N.A. Shelter was the first Pets For Vets chapter to place cats as animal companions for veterans. “We are the first organization [to place cats], and now they have expanded the program,” Bogle said.
In addition to the A.N.N.A. Shelter, other local animal organizations, such as Blended Spirits Ranch, Because You Care Inc., Orphan Angels, and Erie Humane Society, participated in the Veteran’s Fair.
Volunteers of Orphan Angels Cat Sanctuary and Adoption Center, Elizabeth Weiss and Wesley Tolbert, shared that the Erie based cat sanctuary participates in the PETS for VETS program and provides veterans with cats free-of-charge.
“They’re [the cats] good therapy, they’re calming, and also it’s a good responsibility for the vets to be able to adopt an animal,” Weiss said.
Tolbert, being a Navy vet, expressed why a program like Pets For Vetes is so remarkable and beneficial to veterans. “Veterans like to be loved. An animal — a cat, dog — give just love, and that is a comfort to a lot of people,” Tolbert said.
Additionally, Student Veterans Association president, Eric Walten, and vice president, Melissa Winfield, shared why the Pets For Vets Veteran’s Fair is an important event not only for the university, but also for the community.
“A lot of veterans don’t know what organizations are out there that are available to them to help them with coping with any issues they may be having,” said Winfield.
Walten, an active combat engineer in the U.S. Army, stated the fair also served the purpose of abolishing the common stigma of veterans being broken.
“Just like the animals that are here, we [veterans] may have some miles on us, some bumps and bruises, and scars of our history, but we still have a whole lot to give back to the community, and a whole lot of life left to live,” Walten said.
Walten also encouraged students to get involved with the Student Veterans Association.
All donations raised at the 2015 Veterans Fair benefited the A.N.N.A Shelter in Erie and Because You Care, Inc. in McKean County.
Next year’s proceeds will benefit Blended Spirits Ranch and Orphan Angels.
For more information on the PETS for VETS program, or to sign up to volunteer at the A.N.N.A. Shelter, visit petsforvets.com.
Macala Leigey is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.