Interview with Beth Zimmerman, Founder of Pets for Patriots
We have had such a great time over the last few weeks learning and interviewing and sharing all our great guests for our Adopt-A-Dog month series. And this week we are pleased to bring you another amazing person and organization – we interviewed Beth Zimmerman, the Founder of Pet for Patriots.
This organization is dedicated to facilitating the process of animal adoption to current and former service men/women. We all know the loving effects of a special furry companion, and who better to answer our questions than the founder of such an organization?
This is truly a great cause and organization; can you tell us a bit about how and why you started Pets For Patriots? As well as its history?
Thank you! Having experienced the therapeutic effects of an adopted pet in my own life, I knew that wanted to find a way to give that same experience to others. It seemed like a natural fit to pair shelter dogs and cats desperate for a permanent home with our veterans and service members, many of whom need the unique brand of unconditional love that only a pet can deliver.
In founding Pets for Patriots, which was formed in 2009 and launched in 2010, I wanted to do more than pair a pet with a veteran; I wanted to address the fundamental challenges of pet adoption. That’s why we focus on the harder-to-place shelter dogs and cats and put in place an ongoing surrender prevention program to address the primary reasons animals are relinquished to shelters: cost and training.
While the organization does not specifically own any shelters, it does facilitate the process of pet adoption by military personnel. Can you tell us about what that entails?
Veterans and service members from any armed forces and at any career stage can go online to our site to see if they’re eligible to apply. Once they provide their relevant proof of service and are approved, we direct them to partner shelters and veterinarians in their communities for help choosing the right pet and to receive ongoing discounted care. When needed or requested, we get more involved if a member needs extra help finding the right dog or cat.
What is the reason behind narrowing your focus to last chance animals? What makes an animal “last chance”? And do you see unique bonds being made due to this decision?
Great question! We chose to focus on the animals that are most overlooked and face the highest risk of death or languishing at shelters. These are adult pets, large breed dogs and special needs animals – collectively those most challenged to find loving homes.
Our decision to dedicate our adoption program towards these at-risk pets has been very successful. Many of our adopters, who themselves feel broken, isolated or just not quite fitting in, feel a special kinship with these dogs and cats.
Yes, everything from reducing nightmares and anxiety attacks in veterans with PTSD to lowering blood pressure for some of our elderly veterans. Companion pets are incredible medicine. But it’s also much more than that. It’s a little known fact that 18 veterans take their lives every single day. We want to do everything in our power to stop that and we know that our program is making a real difference to the lives of our veterans.
What do you think is greatest effect a pet can have on a soldier transitioning back to civilian life?
It will vary by person, of course. Some veterans tell us their pets help them feel more comfortable around others, even family and friends. Others say a pet helps prevent them from isolating themselves or that they enjoy the ability to confide in a friend who loves them without judgment or condition.
We absolutely loved watching the Mario and Kona video. Are there any other great stories you would like to share?
We have so many wonderful stories and are grateful that our adopters are so willing to share. Rather than have us choose favorites, check out their stories at our blog.
While your program is only available for current and former members of the U.S. Military, what are some ways civilians can help the cause?
Like any charity, we rely on the generosity of the public to survive. A financial donation of any amount is our greatest need. In addition, we have information on the Give section of our site for folks to hold a fundraiser for us, to earn money for our cause when they shop or search online, and to volunteer with us. And we just restocked our online canteen with wonderful limited edition gear. Not only do we receive the proceeds, but people can spread the word by wearing our tees, sweatshirts and backpacks.
Photographs courtesy of Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.
Interview conducted via email, lightly edited.