Paws of War, a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of services for active-duty military, veterans and first responders, has seen a surge in demand for its services both in the US and overseas. The War-Torn Pups & Cats program has been steadily growing, but the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan has spurred a tidal wave of desperate requests from service members trying to save their rescued pets.
Paws of War, founded in 2014, rescues dogs and cats for military serving overseas, typically a few animals a month, but with an increase in the number of redeployments and withdrawals, that number has grown to well over 100 in 2021.
“Abandoned and homeless animals often are befriended by caring service members who can’t bear to see them suffering and die,” said Robert Misseri, the co-founder of Paws of War. “Several parts of the world are not kind to cats, and especially dogs, and the suffering is hard to see. The soldiers there befriend these dogs and cats and fall in love with them, and these troops know that if they don’t save them, they most likely will not survive. These animals provide all the joy and love that pets can give, and that is especially appreciated by troops who are far away from home and family. When the service members are redeployed or sent back home, though, they have to leave their best friends behind.”
Misseri said that shifts in deployment and an increase in recognition of the Paws of War mission have escalated requests for their services, straining the organization’s resources in rescuing these dogs and cats to the United States.
“The US military cannot transport any pets the troops befriend while they’re overseas,” he said. “This leaves the soldiers devastated when they cannot bring the animals they have rescued home with them. Some of these soldiers are already suffering from PTSD associated with their service and now they also feeling horrible guilt for leaving these animals behind.”
Misseri said the average cost to return a cat or dog from overseas to the United States is about $7,000, but that amount can increase dramatically if the animal needs veterinary care before it can be transported.
In addition to rescuing cats and dogs from overseas, Paws of War also provides companion and service dogs to veterans, law enforcement and first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other mental and physical disabilities. Paws of War provides service dog training for many tasks, and this training can take many years to complete.
“These men and women risk both their physical and emotional well-being for us,” Misseri said. “The scars they bear go beyond skin deep, and we know these animals provide a therapeutic value that can’t be measured with money. The number of veterans and soldiers that commit suicide on a daily basis is widely reported at 22 a day. We’ll do whatever we can to help lower that number until it’s zero.”
The not-for-profit organization is 100 percent funded by private donations from individuals, corporations, trusts or foundations and needs donations due to the increase in rescues. To make a donation to rescue an animal and help a soldier, visit the Paws of War donation site.