VA partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at a recent Operation Hero-Animal Bond event at the VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS). The event was held to promote awareness of the benefits of the human-animal bond.
Veterans attending were provided with information about adopting, fostering, and volunteering opportunities with local shelters.
Operation Hero-Animal Bond, announced in November 2017, is one of VA’s initiatives to collaborate with nonprofit organizations and other community partners to identify new and innovative ways to support Veterans’ health and well-being.
Promoting pet ownership and developing volunteer and pet fostering opportunities with local shelters and rescues exemplify an innovation to support Veteran health and wellness. Research shows extensive benefits resulting from the relationship between humans and animals – the human-animal bond.
Some of these benefits include a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones; improved mood; increase in social connections; and reduced feelings of isolation.
Veterans, VA staff, local shelters, rescues, and community-based businesses were invited. Several Veterans and their adopted dogs attended and shared their experiences.
VAMHCS Research Physiologist Dr. Heidi Ortmeyer stated “In our work, we wanted to find a way to help both Veterans and dogs. A Veteran told me that he used to have no desire to get up in the mornings. Now, his dog Sophie licks his face until he gets out of bed to start the day.
The Veteran added, “Sophie changed my life from the moment I met her. Instead of being too anxious to go out in public, now I get excited to take her out.”
VAMHCS, in collaboration with local community shelters and rescues and the VHA Office of Community Engagement, is expanding the Baltimore-based program throughout Maryland. VHA and HSUS plan to grow these efforts by developing an Adoption Tool Kit and national roll-out plan.
VA and the HSUS have a shared goal to enhance the quality of life for Veterans through promoting the human-animal bond, pet keeping and other healthy interactions with animals by way of fostering a greater understanding of pet ownership, responsibility, and greater Veteran/community integration.
Dr. Jamie D. Davis, VHA Office of Community Engagement, coordinated the event.
For more pictures from the event click here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/veteranshealth/sets/72157676416338898
About the author: VHA Office of Community Engagement serves as a trusted resource and a catalyst for the growth of effective partnerships at the national, state, and community level and as a facilitator/access point for public and private entities interested in partnering with VHA to benefit Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.