Located just outside of Wellington, Florida, Paws 4 Liberty, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is dedicated to helping restore the lives of wounded veterans as they struggle to adjust to life after war. The mission of Paws 4 Liberty is to help returning soldiers regain their independence and confidence through the assistance of trained service dogs. With a primary focus on veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Paws 4 Liberty carefully screens, trains, and matches service dogs with qualifying veterans at no cost to the recipient. While some service dog organizations have their own breeding program, Paws 4 Liberty does not breed dogs. All the organization’s service dogs come from local animal shelters or rescue groups or are donated to the organization.
The organization works with veterans from all wars, but currently there is a critical need for service dogs for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). The U.S. Military now has the highest rate of PTS in its history. The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress, such as anger, hostility, alienation, and depression are debilitating and can have serious consequences for veterans and their families. Research shows that recovery from war is heavily influenced by the society one returns to, and many veterans with PTS return home to an overburdened system of care that can leave veterans waiting months and sometimes years for treatment that may or may not effectively provide relief. PTS symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, anxiety attacks, and perceived threats trigger what is known as the “flight or fight” mode, which serve soldiers well when they were in combat. However, if untreated, PTS can become a life sentence of mental illness that affects the ability to sleep, interact socially, and maintain a job or a meaningful relationship. The symptoms of PTS impact not only veterans, but also their families, and the community in which they live.
The organization currently serves veterans in two core programs: The Service Dogs for Veterans Program, and the Train Your Own Dog Program. Paws 4 Liberty’s Service Dogs for Veterans program screens, trains, and matches service dogs with qualified veterans. In the Train Your Own Dog Program, Paws 4 Liberty works with veterans who already have a dog and would like their dog to learn tasks that would help them with their PTS symptoms. These veteran/dog teams are screened for suitability in the program and, once admitted, the teams work together learning tasks and service commands that will help the dog assist the veteran with stress symptoms. Both programs adhere strictly to the training standards set forth by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Per the standards of ADI, all of the dogs in our programs are neutered, and screened for temperament and physical requirements.
To fulfill our purpose, our ongoing objectives include:
To accept qualified rescue dogs or donated dogs for the specific purpose of training them to become service dogs
To carefully screen and train dogs as service dogs according to the standards set by Assistance Dogs International (ADI)
To match trained service dogs to an appropriate human “partner,” with thoughtful consideration for the client’s needs and the dog’s abilities
To provide continuing supportive services to ensure a successful and enduring relationship between the client and service dog.