Patriot PAWS Announces Support from Major National Veterans Service Organization

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Patriot PAWS Founder and Executive Director Lori Stevens welcomed the support from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.

Disabled Veterans National Foundation

Disabled Veterans National Foundation

Patriot PAWS Founder and Executive Director Lori Stevens welcomed the support from DVNF and said: “In the nearly ten years since our founding we have steadily expanded our program. This support from DVNF will jump-start the next stage in our growth."

Patriot PAWS Service Dogs announced today that it has entered into a partnership with the Disabled Veterans National Foundation under which DVNF will raise up to $50,000 to support the Patriot PAWS program of training and providing service dogs to veterans with disabilities.

Patriot PAWS Founder and Executive Director Lori Stevens welcomed the support from DVNF and said: “In the nearly ten years since the founding of Patriot PAWS, we have steadily expanded our program and trained more and more service dogs to assist mobility-impaired veterans. This very generous support from DVNF will jump-start the next stage in our growth.”

Ms. Stevens indicated that the funds raised by DVNF would be specifically targeted toward supporting and expanding the new Patriot PAWS “Rescue Program,” which will identify and train dogs specifically for veterans with psychological wounds such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dogs that provide this type of emotional support can be trained more quickly than mobility dogs that assist wheelchair-bound veterans. This new program, by creating a special training track for emotional-support dogs, will dramatically shorten the current two-year waiting list for emotionally injured veterans.

Patriot PAWS, founded by Ms. Stevens in 2006 and located in Rockwall, Texas, trains service dogs and places them with veterans with service-connected disabilities. Dogs are obtained from breeders, shelters and rescue groups and are carefully evaluated for their suitability as assistance dogs. Training for dogs to assist mobility-impaired veterans is a time-consuming 18-24 month process followed by the selection of a compatible veteran to receive the dog and an intensive 10-day process of acquainting the dog and its new owner.

DVNF CEO Joseph E. VanFonda (USMC SgtMaj Ret.) stated:

“Patriot PAWS is an extraordinary organization that makes a tremendous difference in the lives of veterans who return from combat duty with serious physical or emotional wounds. In addition to their ability to perform useful tasks for a mobility-impaired veteran, a service dog can provide deeply satisfying emotional stability and support to a vet with brain injuries or post traumatic stress disorder. That is why we are particularly pleased to be able to support the ‘Rescue Program’ Patriot PAWS is launching.”

Mr. VanFonda is a 27-year Marine Corps veteran (USMC SgtMaj Ret.), who received the Purple Heart for combat injuries in Iraq and was later the Regimental Sergeant Major for the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. He joined DVNF as CEO in October 2013 and has launched a number of new programs for the organization, including special fundraising initiatives such as this one for Patriot PAWS.

Mr. VanFonda highlighted one aspect of the Patriot PAWS program as deserving special recognition. In 2008, Patriot PAWS began a relationship with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice under which the first phase of service dog training is done by prison inmates. While inmates are training the dogs, who actually live with them in prison for several months, they are also learning a skill that can lead to steady employment following their release. Since the program began, recidivism among inmate-trainers has been 3%, far below the average. For the new “Rescue Program,” training will occur at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice William R. Boyd Unit, a men’s prison in Teague, Texas, the first time this prison has been part of the Patriot PAWS program.

NOTE TO EDITORS: An important opportunity for coverage is coming up with the next Patriot PAWS graduation ceremony when four veterans who have fully completed the placement and training process will be formally awarded ownership of their service dogs and will take them home. The event is tentatively scheduled for April 17 inside the Crain Unit of the Women’s Correctional Facility in Gatesville, Texas. Details of the requirements for registering media personnel in advance with the prison will be forthcoming.

About DVNF

The Disabled Veterans National Foundation exists to provide critically needed support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded—physically or psychologically—after defending our safety and our freedom.

We achieve this mission by:

  • Providing an online resource database that allows veterans to navigate the complex process of seeking benefits that they are entitled to as a result of their military service, as well as additional resources they need.
  • Offering direct financial support to veteran organizations that address the unique needs of veterans, and whose missions align with that of DVNF.
  • Providing supplemental assistance to homeless and low-income veterans through the Health & Comfort program and various empowerment resources.
  • Serving as a thought leader on critical policy issues within the veteran community, and educating the public accordingly.

See more at: http://www.dvnf.org

About Patriot PAWS

Patriot PAWS Service Dogs organization was officially designated as a 501(c)(3) organization in February 2006. Patriot PAWS holds an active membership in Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Lori Stevens is the Founder and Executive Director of Patriot PAWS and is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) with over 25 years experience. She is a member of several professional organizations including The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She is also an AKC approved evaluator for the Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC) and a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy of dog training professionals.

Service dogs are selected through donations, local animal shelters and rescue groups. They are carefully evaluated prior to selection, and only the best of the best become candidates, graduate and are certified. Each dog trained at Patriot PAWS is customized to the individual needs of the owner. Tasks, both physical and mental, can be as varied as finding assistance Service dogs are selected through donations, local animal shelters and rescue groups. They are carefully evaluated prior to selection, and only the best of the best become candidates, graduate and are certified. Each dog trained at Patriot PAWS is customized to the individual needs of the owner. Tasks, both physical and mental, can be as varied as finding assistance in emergencies, helping with chores and aiding with emotions for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries. Initial training of the dogs starts between 6 weeks and 2 years old. Once a dog is accepted for training, the goal is to teach the dog commands that meet and/or exceed the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) Public Access Certification Test.

In February 2008, Patriot PAWS expanded its program for training service dogs to include a partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The goal of the program is to train prison inmates to train service dogs for disabled veterans. It takes 1½-2 years to train one mobility service dog at a cost of about $33,000.

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