Save a Veteran/Rescue a Dog
Healing Paws for Warriors, Inc.
Founded in 2015, Healing Paws for Warriors (HP4Ws) is a local, veteran founded/veteran led 501(c)(3) that provides rescue-to-trained Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service dogs at “no cost” to veterans faced with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Military Sexual Trauma (MST) with continued support, thereby reducing the statistic of veteran suicide and increasing family health and wellness. Initially, the program was established by a handful of community members, all with ties to the military, to help support over 10,000 veterans in the Florida Panhandle who have experienced PTSD. A program that is known throughout the community by its “red shirt” with the “ Save a Veteran/Rescue a Dog” slogan, it continues to grow, graduating 17 veteran/K9 teams and projecting an additional 10 more teams by the end of the year, with over 50% living in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. Currently, there is a waiting list of veterans needing dogs that will take the program into late 2020. In 2018, Healing Paws for Warriors was recognized and partnered with Primo Dog Bed & Biscuits for dog kenneling and Northwest Florida State College for canine training grounds, helping to reduce costs and provide better community outreach.
Save a Veteran/Rescue a Dog is a program that reduces veteran suicide and canine euthanizing; pairing one veteran and one dog – saving 2 lives. There are almost 10,000 veterans in Escambia County with service-connected disabilities, with almost 2,000 of them having a 70% or higher disability rating. In Santa Rosa County, there are almost 8,000 veterans with a service-connected disability, and over 1,800 of them have a 70% or higher disability rating. In regard to the number of animals euthanized, Santa Rosa County is #1 and Escambia County is listed #8 in Florida. IMPACT 100 funds will be used to purchase a Ford Transit Cargo Van and a Ford Shuttle Bus. These vehicles will be modified to meet handicap accessibility and canine transport standards. During K9 Integration, the vehicles will be used to visit Escambia and Santa Rosa County shelters and veterinarians for the purpose of evaluating and selecting canines, thereby rescuing a dog and potentially reducing the rate of euthanasia. Also, during veteran/K9 team training, the vehicles will provide access to service dog training to veterans who are diagnosed with physical or emotional trauma, helping save a veteran and reduce potential suicide rates.
In our military community, statistics reflect that every day 20-22 veterans and active duty members turn to suicide as an option to relieve their suffering from mental health issues. Additionally, over 3 million dogs a year are euthanized in shelters. Several shelters and animal hospitals have expressed interest in providing potential canine candidates and animal care. The vehicles will enable the organization to work with additional shelters to reduce the number of dogs euthanized and to increase veterinary care for the dogs. Healing Paws for Warriors will identify and provide to a greater number of physically and emotionally challenged veterans an opportunity to benefit by receiving a service dog and training at no cost, allowing the veterans to improve their quality of life, and reengage with their families and local communities. Impacted veterans will transition from isolation to newfound freedom. They will be able to reconnect with their families, obtain jobs, and return to school. The project will allow more veterans access to training, and more businesses will have an opportunity to support them by providing assets and services. The grant will also increase community awareness of veteran suicide and save/provide dogs a second chance.