Veterans reach out to IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) to get assistance for a multitude of issues, including challenges they are facing related to combat trauma, visible and invisible wounds, interpersonal issues, and overall challenges reintegrating back into their lives once they come home. Often times RRRP helps to get these veterans and their families connected to counseling and therapy. In some instances RRRP connects veterans to more alternative therapy, including equine therapy, or helping the veteran to obtain a service animal of their own.
There is significant scientific data that supports the therapeutic value of the relationship between a veteran and an animal companion. This is particularly true with veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress. The relationship that is formed between a veteran and a service animal can make all the difference as the veteran integrates back into civilian life. Sometimes when veterans come home they can feel isolated from and misunderstood by the people around them. Spending time with animals, or getting a service animal of their own, can often be a powerful tool in helping veterans feel an increased sense of value, meaning, purpose and belonging.
RRRP collaborates with organizations across the nation to help get veterans and their families connected with service animals including Equest, Pets for Vets and Puppies Behind Bars.
One local resource that one our Veteran Transition Managers refer to in Western New York, is Dog Tags Niagara. This organization collaborates with the Niagara County SPCA to unite combat veterans with pit bulls who are homeless and living at the shelter. Their mission is to heal the unseen wounds of the soldier while simultaneously healing the animal whose trust has been broken.
A veteran who contacted RRRP spoke of how powerful the relationship with an animal can be. This veteran was receiving care at a residential treatment facility. In conjunction with other mental health support, he was connected with a local animal shelter and began spending time with the dogs there. He shared that when he spent time in the shelter he didn’t feel judged by the animals, like he so often did by people. As he took care of the dogs and met their needs, he began to learn how to take care of himself and ensure that his own needs were being met in a healthy and productive way. He added that spending time with the dogs, who loved him unconditionally, opened him up to feeling that love, and reciprocating it.
Whether veterans come to RRRP with questions about the value in service animals, requesting direct assistance in obtaining a service animal, or interest in spending time with an animal to aid in their therapy, RRRP is here to point them in the right direction with the support that they need and deserve.
RRRP Client Quote:
“Thank you for helping me and making it crystal clear that I am not alone in what I am going through. I’ve spent most of the past two and a half years since I’ve been back believing I was alone. But I’m not alone. Thank You.”