The SPCA Paws & Patriots program was developed for veterans in the western New York community in need of giving and receiving special love and attention, and for animals at the SPCA who need exactly the same thing, said shelter officials at the SPCA Serving Erie County in Buffalo.
"Some veterans have trouble readjusting upon their return home. They may experience a sense of loss or loneliness," said a statement from the SPCA Serving Erie County. "Some shelter animals are lonely or depressed. They need a dedicated team of people to help them overcome their fears."
Using a positive reinforcement method of working with shelter animals, veterans are trained on three tiers of animal enrichment that provide long-term mutual benefits for both pets and people.
"Veterans assist the animals with readjustment issues, improve the animals' responses to humans and increase the animals' potential for being adopted, while veterans receive similar enrichment from working with the animals. The program assists in their coping skills and readjustment from their experiences in uniform to civilian life."
As bonds are established with shelter animals, veterans once again find purpose contributing to a mission higher than self, shelter officials said.
"The camaraderie, trust, empathy, and compassion established in the program provide mutual benefits, usually prompting the question, "Who is rescuing whom?" one worker asked.