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Pets and Vets
Support ARF's Pets and Vets program today!

Saving Both Ends of the Leash

Launched in 2011 as a service to our U.S. military heroes, this flagship program matches veterans with emotional support animals and provides free veterinary wellness clinics. Today, ARF continues changing lives, transforming rescue dogs into skilled service animals for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, anxiety, severe depression and more. ARF has placed more than 600 animals with military families, including 45 potential service dogs in the past year, saving both ends of the leash.

Like trusted battle buddies, ARF's Pets and Vets dogs are invaluable partners for veterans readjusting to civilian life, providing powerful therapeutic and practical benefits through the quiet unconditional love of a pet. Service dogs have been proven to help with:

  • Reducing anxiety, panic, depression, and symptoms of PTSD
  • Providing stability and companionship
  • Inspiring sociability and improving positive outlook
  • Establishing routines and self-care practices
  • Renewing sense of purpose and focus on achieving goals
  • Relieving feelings of isolation
  • Additional reported benefits include improved sleep patterns, sense of security, and avenues to relationship-building.

Unlike service-dog programs that cost thousands of dollars and involve long waitlists, ARF matches veteran-dog teams at no expense to the veteran. In exchange, teams complete service-training curriculum together in veteran-only classes, collectively deepening their bond while building new skills.

Our Training Program
Our training program empowers veterans to bond with and train their own dogs in obedience, public access, and service skills under the guidance of a skilled trainer, who is also a U.S. military veteran. Teams learn a minimum of three skills to help alleviate the veteran's disability, which may include alerting to an oncoming panic attack, interrupting nightmares, and more.

We only require a commitment for the dog's training under the guidance of our program. Veterans quickly recognize training their own dog not only deepens the connection with their dog, but also provides them a program consisting of structure and task achievements often missed after leaving the armed services.  

Our Service Dogs
ARF's Pets and Vets program places exclusively rescued animals. Many of these dogs received a second chance after facing an uncertain future in a public shelter. People once believed stereotypes that only certain dog breeds – typically a mix of Labrador and golden retriever – excelled as service dogs. We now know that's not true. Skills such as focus, confidence and openness to reward-based training make a good service dog.

How to Apply
If you are a veteran seeking service-dog assistance, or know a veteran who could benefit from this program, please contact or direct them to the Veterans Program Manager for an application.

Program participants must be veterans of the United States military serving after 1990 and:

  • Provide Department of Defense Form 214 as evidence of service
  • Provide a written letter from a health care professional referring the veteran as a candidate for an Emotional Service Animal (ESA)
  • Live in a stable personal residence; veterans in inpatient housing are not eligible
  • Receive ongoing treatment for service-related emotional trauma within Contra Costa or Alameda Counties, or reside within a 30-mile radius of ARF's headquarters
  • Demonstrate willingness and ability to provide proper care and training, as well as a safe, secure home environment for a dog for their natural lifespan

Mobile Veterinarian Services
ARF's commitment to the veteran community reaches beyond those receiving service dogs. We offer free wellness veterinary care and vaccinations to all veterans' pets (dogs or cats) through our mobile clinics held at regional VA Medical Centers near our headquarters. We believe even dogs and cats not trained for specific service provide a therapeutic emotional benefit to their veteran companions. Cost of care should never keep veterans from this benefit. See our latest mobile clinic service schedule here.

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