Like trusted battle buddies, trained service dogs and emotional support animals can provide benefits that include:
- Reducing anxiety, panic, depression, and other symptoms of PTSD
- Providing stability and companionship
- Inspiring sociability, relationship building, and improving positive outlook
- Establishing routines and self-care practices
- Renewing sense of purpose and focus on achieving goals
- Relieving feelings of isolation
- Improved sleep patterns
- Lowering blood pressure
Unlike service dog programs costing thousands of dollars and involving long waitlists, our team matches Veterans with dogs quickly and at no cost to the Veteran.
We exclusively place pre-evaluated, rescue animals. Many of these animals received a second chance after facing an uncertain future in a public shelter. We assess aptitude through evaluation at the shelter and for a period in a foster home. Every animal selected is matched with a Veteran to meet the Veteran’s specific needs. Learn more about applying to ARF’s Pets and Vets program.
Shelter to Service
For aspiring service dogs, teams complete training curriculum together, deepening their bond while building new skills. Under the guidance of our skilled, professional trainers, dogs learn obedience, public access skills, and to perform a minimum of three tasks to help alleviate the Veteran’s disability. Tasks may include alerting to oncoming panic attacks, interrupting nightmares, and more, to meet each Veteran’s needs.
This unique, Veterans-only training environment provides students with comradery in a supportive class environment, as well as structure and task achievements often missed after leaving the armed services. Following graduation, teams are re-certified on an annual basis.
Aspiring service dogs are carefully selected to meet each Veteran’s needs. ARF does not consider breed mix as a factor in selection, and screens dogs for qualities including focus, confidence, calmness, and response to reward-based training.
Free, professional training helps Veterans teach pre-evaluated dogs the public access skills and tasks necessary to become service dogs. Training is a requirement for service dog certification and may take up to a year of weekly classes. Tasks taught are customized for each Veteran and may include alerting to oncoming panic attacks, interrupting nightmares, and more.
All adoption services and training are provided for free to the Veteran, along with a supply of preventative medications and Purina® pet food. Additional pet supplies are generously provided upon adoption through a partnership with Pet Food Express.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals (ESAs) help alleviate the symptoms of an individual’s disability through unconditional love. While different from trained service dogs, ESAs have access to pet-free housing and can be very useful for treating mental and emotional disabilities.
ARF places both dogs and cats with Veterans as ESAs, recognizing that pets of any species, size, or breed are able to provide incredible therapeutic benefits to their guardians. All adoption fees are waived for military Veterans. Free, optional obedience training is also offered to adopters of emotional support dogs.
“This is by far the most powerful intervention we’ve tried with this Veteran in the six years I’ve been working with him. This is exactly what we’d hoped for. This dog has done amazing things for him. He’s smiling, excited, and lively.”
– David J., Ph.D. Oakland Vet Center
“Veterans sometimes just need someone to watch their back — someone they can depend on, someone that depends on them. These dogs provide all of this and more for Veterans.”
– Matthew D., LMSW Social Worker