Welcome to our about page. PetsLoyal2Vets is a Minnesota based 501(c)(3) nonprofit outreach organization registered with the IRS as a tax exempt organization. PetsLoyal2Vets recognizes the emotional bond and therapeutic value of the human-animal relationship and the incredible emotional as well as psychological benefits incorporated into the healing and recovery process.
Our mission is to connect disabled Minnesota Military Veterans diagnosed and treated for PTSD, TBI or physical assault traumas with specially trained companion, therapy and Psychiatric service dogs by partnering with supporting animal shelters, breeders and rescue organizations and at no cost to the veteran. In our book, all dogs trained tom assist their Veteran are considered a Service Dog.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 veterans out of 1.2 million returning home will have some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) leading to an epidemic of service connected suicides and self inflicted injuries. PetsLoyal2Vets programs do not replace traditional methodologies, modalities or treatments, but rather complements them as an adjunct to conventional ongoing therapy and rehabilitation.
Veteran candidates enrolled in our programs can be active duty, reservists, inactive reserve, veteran, retired, disabled and from any US Military branch throughout Minnesota. Our programs are designed to meet the “individual” needs of both men and women veterans and is not limited to any specific campaign, conflict or minimum disability rating.
U.S. military veterans throughout Minnesota and who also live in Pierce or St. Croix Counties in Western Wisconsin who have been diagnosed and treated for PTSD or TBI are encouraged to apply for a candidate dog so long as they meet the minimum care and shelter requirements. And, because PTSD can effect entire families, careers and relationships, we feel adding one additional component into the healing and recovery process can be very therapeutic and lead to a strengthened emotional well-being.
It has been proven that well-trained companion/therapy or Psychiatric Service Dogs have a distinct calming effect on humans which helps open up stronger communication channels, family support, emotional well-being and a more enjoyable life. If we can adopt a well-trained certified dog to qualifying veterans, we can help ease the pain associated with depression, anxiety, or attempts to inflict self harm and increase their quality of life.
These dogs are not meant to replace any professional care provided through the VA Medical Center, but rather to offer veterans suffering from prolonged PTSD or TBI symptoms an alternative to being alone, having no one to talk with or share their feelings with or help with service needs after they leave the health care system. A dog trained to spot depression, mood swings, anxiety attacks and lapses in memory can step in and create a task interference to that symptom to distract or help remind the veteran.
Memory lapses from IED concussions or blunt force traumas to the head can be especially difficult when it comes to daily reminders. A PSD dog can remind the vet of specific medication times or tasks that they are supposed to do.
This is a specialized training program developed exclusively for veterans with PTSD, TBI injuries and physical assault traumas who have completed VA Medical Center treatments and their Social Worker, therapist or Doctor believes that a well-trained certified dog will aid them in their daily routines and help boost their psychological well-being. Our programs and dogs are not to be mistaken as a universal remedy or replacement of traditional professional VA Medical Center services but rather, an ongoing therapeutic association to help improve a service member’s quality of life.
Certified Service Dogs are much like a Battle Buddy. In the U.S. Army, a Battle Buddy is described as a partner assigned to assist a soldier. Each Battle Buddy is expected to assist his or her partner both in and out of combat. A Battle Buddy is not only intended for company, but also for the reduction of suicide. A Battle Buddy can save their fellow soldier’s life simply by noticing negative thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. They are trained to recognize fluctuations in the veteran’s mood, if they are depressed or have panic attacks, temper flare-ups and other mood altering states of mind.
Soldiers were asked to evaluate and rate their satisfaction with the “Battle Buddy Team Assignment Program” in order to gauge whether the program should be implemented by the Army. Surveys were created to assess:
- The role of personality variables
- Self-assessments of successes due to Battle Buddies
- Potential situational influences
- Buddy interactions/assessments
The following table, for example, displays soldiers ratings of satisfaction with the Battle Buddy system:
|Disliked Very Much||Disliked||Neither||Liked||Liked Very much|
This table, on the other hand, shows soldiers’ agreement that Battle Buddies are a good Army practice:
|Strongly disagree||Disagree||Neither agree nor disagree||Agree||Strongly agree|
Suicide prevention is a major objective of the Battle Buddy system. In 2006, the suicide rate in the United States Army increased by 37% and, by 2009, there were 344 completed suicides by military personnel (211 of whom were members of the Army). In response, efforts to identify suicide prevention initiatives have increased; military and legislative officials found the assignment of Battle Buddies to be an effective method of decreasing military suicide rates. So, lets fast forward to 2015. With 8,030 service members committing suicide every year in this country, why then, is the Federal Government taking its time to recognize the value certified dogs can have on veterans. It has been almost 10 years since this report was conducted. If the Departmnet of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Government both acknowledged the evidence submitted by the National American Legion on this very same topic, and allowed non-profit organizations to work with VA therapists, Doctors and Social Workers, the suicide rate for U.S. Military Veterans would most certainly take a dramatic reduction.
About Our Logo
The dark Navy blue outer circle represents connectivity and the flow of support as it comes full circle.
The yellow ribbon with the words “Support Our Troops” influences its shape like amber waves of grain and signifies our loyalty to our troops.
The 3 gold stars flanking each side represent fallen soldiers who have lost their lives in conflicts around the world. The gold star pin distributed by strict Department of Defense guidelines is awarded to members of the immediate family of a fallen service member.
The inscription in part “PetsLoyal2Vets” found in the upper half of the logo emphasizes the unconditional love our Pets provide, and the complete and absolute Loyalty they offer 2 our Vets.
The American flag in the background is our focal point, drawing your eyes in deep, representing the battlefield of life and liberty and the fallen many, of all wars past, present and future.
The dog soldier silhouette shows strength and courage as a team while seeking wisdom and enlightenment as we challenge ourselves and our minds to overcome the many barriers in life.
The barely visible paw print above the dog soldier illustrates allegiance to freedom and liberty for all.
The two white stars in the blue portion of the flag story us on the bonding relationships between man and man’s best friend and how working as a team, anything can be accomplished.
Our new 4,800 sq/ft training center is located in a quiet pristine country setting south of the Minnesota river near Burnsville and Prior Lake, MN. Partnering with supportive shelters and rescue groups, PetsLoyal2Vets will play an important role in training and adopting out many highly trained dogs to veterans free of charge. Veterans can stop in for a visit, watch the dogs being trained and get to know the trainers. We encourage veterans interested in the “Project Companion” to stop by, pull up a chair under the patio brick arbor covered in vines and grapes and relax.
We are fortunate to have a Regional VA Medical Center just 25 minutes from this facility with dozens of excellent doctors, therapists and social workers who work closely with PTSD and TBI veterans. We are so excited to have an opportunity to serve veterans post active duty by training homeless dogs as companion/therapy or as Psychiatric Service Dogs. Our initiatives and programs are entirely funded through grants, corporate sponsorships and donations.
Veterans come from all over Minnesota to receive treatment at the Minneapolis VA Hospital and, with hundreds of animal shelters and rescue groups throughout the state, and volunteer breeders donating puppies, these services will fulfill the dreams of many who need a highly trained dog.
When reviewing the impact this facility will have on our communities and for veterans all over Minnesota, it didn’t take long to realize we will need to train many dogs to assist veterans with their physical and psychological challenges. Unlike for profit organizations who train dogs then sell them to anyone, PetsLoyal2Vets will not charge the veteran for any dog or services it provides.
Thousands of dogs each year need homes including War Dogs returning from the latest conflicts. Thousands of veterans returning home from war zones need a companion as well and need your support to make it happen. Matching certified dogs with veterans free of charge will promote emotional peace and well-being, reduced anxiety, reduced stress and hopefully reduced suicides while facilitating veteran’s integration back into civilian and family life. Our programs do not replace professional medical treatments, or therapies, but rather complement the therapy each veteran receives through the VA Medical Center.
Having a training center so close to a Regional VA Medical Center, shelters and dozens of rescue groups, eager volunteers and veterinary clinics is where Pets Loyal 2 Vets will play a vital role in connecting the community and a new dog with Minnesota veterans. To accommodate veterans needs even further, any veteran who is unable to obtain PTSD or TBI treatments and or therapy where they are required to stay at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis for short-term stays, and lack the resources for a safe home for their dog while they are being treated, Pets Loyal 2 Vets will take their dog in free of charge, care for, feed, train and even bring their dog to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center for scheduled visits so that the veteran in need of treatment can be assured their dog will be properly cared for in their absence. All dogs received for short-term stays must be up to date on all shots, be non-aggressive breeds and not sickly or injured.
Once dogs are selected for training, we begin by partnering them with a veteran and their specific physical or psychological challenges. W do not offer “cookie Cutter” training programs like many others but rather customize training for each veteran’s needs. Trained dogs have the ability to recognize the onset of a wide variety of PTSD and TBI related symptoms and make excellent companions. If you are a certified Psychiatric Service Dog or Therapy Dog trainer and would like to participate in helping veterans by joining our staff, please contact Pets Loyal 2 Vets for details.
Jeff LeBaron is an honorably discharged Vietnam Era U.S. Navy Veteran who joined in June 1974 and served in the Deck/Weapons division aboard the USS Robison DDG-12, a Guided Missile Destroyer where he was exposed to life threatening situations and injuries. His dream was to work his way up from the bottom and retire a navy officer. It was a dream to serve his country and retire doing so but things don’t always go as planned.
When a veteran has experienced severe traumas, injuries or life threatening situations and is eventually able to cope with what happened, the next hurdle one may go through is the anxiety of disclosure. Feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation, pain and more hound the thoughts of many. It also helps to have therapists and Doctors who “truly care” and don’t judge or mock you. I’ve been in group sessions where other veterans ridiculed veterans for what they went through. This is deplorable to say the least and never allowed on our property.
Although Jeff struggles with his own injuries, after meeting so many veterans experiencing PTSD or TBI who also had dogs, it led Jeff to a deeper understanding of the issues and struggles surrounding PTSD, TBI and MST and the need to help fellow veterans was born.
Everyone deals with traumatic experiences in their own way. Whether from witnessing trauma, experiencing trauma or faced with unbearable circumstances. If you are a Minnesota veteran suffering from PTSD and TBI related symptoms and have nowhere to turn, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, they will help you out from that dark place and get you the help you need. You don’t have to keep putting yourself through the pain and nightmares, substance abuse and feelings of hopelessness. Isolating yourself from everyone, conjuring up thoughts of suicide aimlessly controlling your thoughts as you look for ways you can end it all, seems easier, but it really isn’t necessary. That’s where Pets Loyal 2 Vets will play a vital role in helping Minnesota veterans deal with PTSD and TBI related traumas. I know it’s easier said then done but it can be turned around with the right help.
Once a veteran has successfully completed therapy, adding a new companion/therapy dog, or a Psychiatric Service Dog into your life can help settle those thoughts and ease the pain. “You may very well still have those up and down days, but anyone with one of these dogs will tell you, they would rather have one then be without.” There’s nothing like looking into the eyes of a dog who cares especially when they know you’re having a tough time and loves you unconditionally. You can share your feelings, frustrations and anxiety without judgement or retaliation. They just seem to know exactly what you are going through and want to help. Please see the Service Dog Functions for Persons With PTSD chart on our symptoms page that lists each symptom with a task or duty.
A highly trained dog added to that equation can have incredible positive affects on how one deals with trauma and emotional feelings going forward. Listening to veterans suffering from the same challenges of fear, lack of community understanding and employer sponsored disregard led me to founding PetsLoyal2Vets.org. Employers, family and friends who don’t understand or don’t want to understand PTSD symptoms often unknowingly become the triggers to PTSD adding to the already difficult circumstances of coping. On the other hand, you can talk with your dog and share things without the fear of being judged, shunned or retaliated against. A companion dog will listen and continue to give you unconditional love and understanding. In my book, employers who are truly veteran friendly and their numbers show it, are a valuable asset to their communities and to the Armed Forces of this country.
There are many organizations who claim they support veterans and raise millions of dollars for their cause, but the true test is when you ask for help, are they willing to provide realistic support or ignore you. PetsLoyal2Vets will not ignore you. We are veterans and PetsLoyal2Vets is built by vets for vets. To learn more about PTSD and TBI, go to our Symptoms and Training pages.
Our goal is to match from 20 highly trained Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certified Therapy Dog’s (CTD) and Psychiatric Service Dog’s (PSD’s) per year with a veteran in need that will aid the veteran once they have completed a VA sponsored PTSD, CBT, PET or TBI program and transition into a more welcoming life. PL2VETS will be instrumental in helping those vets who have made their sacrifice adjust better to his or her home and civilian life as well as helping to save the life of a companion dog that would otherwise be forgotten. No longer will Minnesota veterans have to search for a CTD or PSD out-of-state or pay huge fees charged by organizations who train dogs only to sell them. To maintain a high degree of consistency, integrity and transparency, it is vital that we:
- Build lasting relationships between military veterans, the VA Hospital, other institutions and community based animal welfare providers.
- Create a coordinated referrals program from community based animal welfare organizations, military partners and military families seeking a companion or therapy dog.
- Develop a resource map and training platform so the community as a whole will be able to identify, refer and assist Pets Loyal 2 Vets in finding and accessing appropriate resources.
- Empower veterans participating in this program so they can be utilized as strategic assets within their respective communities.
Support veteran and animal welfare partnerships which foster improved access to companion and therapy dogs while assisting veterans with a more successful transition to civilian life.
- Leverage community resources and opportunities which will complement collaborations with other foundations, corporate sponsors and community partnerships.
PL2VETS was founded in October 2012 with corporate papers filed in February 2013 and IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit status granted by the IRS in July 2013. It was created by and built by veterans for veterans. Any honorably or medically discharged veteran for PTSD and TBI from any conflict who has completed one of the above VA programs may apply for a companion/therapy or Psychiatric Service Dog at no cost. PL2VETS is also available to veterans who had a therapy or service dog which passed away and are now in need of a new companion. If we place a companion or therapy dog with you, and you have to go back into the Minneapolis, Minnesota VA Hospital for any inpatient stays, Pets Loyal 2 Vets will be happy to board your dog for you at no cost. This also depends on your length of stay and space availability in our facility.
There is a form to fill out, but after that, PL2VETS will pick up their dog at the Minneapolis VA Hospital or the veteran can drop it off at the training center and be assured it will be kept in good hands till they are ready to go home. We will even bring your dog to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center for weekly visits with doctor approval as part of your therapy and bonding. This valuable relationship of veterans supporting veterans who would otherwise not be able to receive medical services or in patient treatments will provide a one of a kind service for both the dog and the veteran.
Qualifying Veterans must
- Reside within Minnesota as a Minnesota resident or, in Pierce or St. Croix Counties in Western Wisconsin
- Be honorably discharged or discharged due to PTSD or TBI or related physical injuries
- Be diagnosed by VA Doctors with PTSD or TBI and be medically necessary to have a companion, therapy or Psychiatric service dog
- Be currently receiving treatment for PTSD, TBI or in (PTSR) Post Traumatic Stress Recovery
- Currently receiving treatment for a service connected Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and able to care for a dog
- Completed a VA treatment program for PTSD, TBI, PTSR, PPH or CBT program and need a companion dog as part of their ongoing rehabilitation
- This may include completion of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s (CBT) or other physical or psychological programs provided via the Veterans Administration Hospitals
- Be a veteran who has recently lost a companion, therapy or Psychiatric Service Dog used to help treat symptoms of PTSD, TBI, PTSR etc.
- All veterans will be screened to ensure they can properly care for their new companion and must meet the minimum standards of shelter, nutrition, medical needs and loving care.
Minnesota Legislature defines a veteran as:
Gone are the days that Minnesota veterans find they are required to travel to Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Texas or California to obtain a dog, sustain huge expenses or be forced to stay out-of-state for weeks on end. All qualifying veterans will be screened and paired with a certified dog using positive re-enforcement protocols and provided free of charge to the veteran. If you are not enrolled in the weekly training sessions with your dog, opportunities will be available towards the end of the training program for each veteran to train along side their new partner so long as you liver fairly close to the training facility.
To provide ongoing services related to connecting veterans diagnosed and treated for PTSD and TBI with companion and therapy dogs and to grow the organization to chapters throughout Minnesota.
Pets Loyal 2 Vets is a Minnesota based non-profit organization and a federally registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, operating under Federal EIN ID number 46-2001674. It is extremely important to maintain transparency and to keep every program in-house and not farmed out to outside agencies or companies. We plan to keep overhead to a single digit of total revenue raised so our efforts are focused on providing certified dogs to as many veterans as possible. We also have no intentions of becoming a national organization where monies are sent out-of-state so be assured, all money raised in Minnesota to support Minnesota veterans will remain in Minnesota. We are also not a boarding kennel disguised as a non-profit raising funds to help offset a for profit enterprise as seen in other operations.
To print out our IRS Tax Exemption Letter <<< click this link
Mail to Address: P.O. Box 1895 Burnsville, MN 55337
Physical Address: 17991 Natchez Ave, Prior Lake, MN Visits by appointment only