ARF’s Campaign For Pets And Vets Saves Lives At Both Ends Of The Lea

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
More military veterans are suffering with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders, and at the same time, animals languish in shelters. Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation is working to change that with their Campaign for Pets and Vets, and they’re saving lives at both ends of the leash.

We had the opportunity to speak with Wendy Taylor Tanielian, the Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager with Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation–affectionately known as ARF. Wendy shared with us ARF’s campaign for Pets and Vets, a program that matches shelter dogs with military vets who experience combat injuries that leave them suffering from emotional after-effects.

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Why did La Russa want to create a program that matched military vets with shelter animals? His goal was to take care of military service members coming back from war–not wanting them to return and be treated as many military members were as they returned from Viet Nam. Knowing the power of dogs and their ability to change lives, Wendy said that La Russa found matching military members and shelter dogs as emotional support dogs a perfect fit.

Wendy says that in 2017, vets were saying that they wanted and needed more; adopting dogs for emotional support was beneficial, but many veterans were suffering from PTSD and they wanted dogs to help with psychiatric disorders as well. That’s when ARF realized that they could make a difference in the lives of dogs and military service members, and looked into their campaign to bring a larger training center and curriculum to share with other shelters across the country to life.

And so, the plan to work to save both ends of the leash went larger-scale. The operation is currently based in Northern California, but Wendy says they travel to the Central Valley and most importantly, have created a curriculum and business model that they want to offer to other shelters across the country. There’s always a need for finding dogs homes, and the wait lists for veterans looking for service dogs are often years long. With their model, Wendy says this can be a program in every community that saves military members, their families and relationships and dogs who would otherwise be euthanized simply because there wasn’t enough space for them in the shelter.

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Currently, La Russa’s Foundation has saved over 41,000 dogs and cats since they started in 1991. They’re in their final stages of an $18.7 million capital campaign to bring about a 23,8000 sq.ft. total expansion of their facilities and the program. They will be offering Veterans-only clinic access, as Veterans attend training with their dogs from the beginning, something that sets them apart from other veteran training programs.

Wendy says that for many of their veterans, getting them to feel comfortable going out and ‘doing’ life on a regular schedule is awkward, and while they may neglect to do so for themselves, they’ll readily do so for their dogs. They attend training, medical visits and more, and in doing so, slowly acclimate to living a ‘normal’ life again.

As part of their commitment to saving both ends of the leash, Purina generously pays for food for the life of the dog, and contributions and donations continue to support the program that gives back to our military members while saving the lives of wonderful dogs everywhere.

If you’d like to learn more about this fantastic program or find out how you can your local shelter get involved ARF’s business-to-business model, you can visit

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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