Make These “Vets” an Essential Part of Your Organization

Make These “Vets” an Essential Part of Your Organization

Vets (as in “veterinarians”) have long been an important part of any animal welfare organization. But there’s another kind of vet that should be, too — veterans. Yes, our vets are heroes, and they can provide heroic services in our industry as well.

This month, as we celebrate President’s Day, I can’t help but think of the nobility in service. Those who serve for others are special gifts to society. Through my association with SAWA, I’m reminded of that every day. As members of animal welfare organizations, you act as heroes to both animals and our communities — and I think you could use some heroic company.

Help from vets

Veterans of the Armed Forces make great volunteers. Many servicemen and servicewomen have had amazing experiences with animals. They may have served alongside animals or provided aid and comfort to animals they met along the way. And many vets have benefitted from the companionship and love animals provide.

Local veterans groups have many programs in place to help veterans find volunteer opportunities. Connect with them and make sure information about your organization is available.

Help for vets

Located in one of the country’s military hubs, San Diego Humane Society knows very well the plight many of our retired servicewomen and servicemen face. The transition for many veterans is anything but easy, and it’s not uncommon for our returning heroes to turn to pets for emotional support and companionship. But sometimes, they need more. From pet food to pet supplies, it’s difficult for many vets (especially our homeless veteran population) to access basic pet-care needs. Organizations like PAWS San Diego (a program from San Diego Humane) are ready to step up and step in.

In November, PAWS San Diego made it possible for veteran pet owners to participate in Stand Down San Diego, a program that provides struggling servicemen and servicewomen the basic services they need to get their lives on a better track — for themselves and their beloved companion animals. PAWS San Diego offered animal-sitting services, bags of pet food and care supplies to 70 pet families, allowing participating veterans the time and peace of mind to benefit from the three-day event.

Operation Stand Down is a national effort with chapters across the United States. Partner with them, or similar organizations, and do something for those who have already done so much for all of us.

Our industry can do a lot for veterans, and veterans can do a lot for our industry. Putting our minds together to benefit our communities is one of SAWA’s strengths. President’s Day would be a good time to get started.


Tom Tholen

Tom Tholen is SAWA's Senior Vice President of Marketing & Development. The SAWA member has served as President of Companion Channel, a cloud-based digital screen media service that streamed into partner shelters. Tom is perhaps best known in the animal welfare industry as the former President & Chief Marketing Officer for Callahan Creek, which was the agency of record for Hill’s in the early days of their shelter program. Over the years, he has worked for several agencies, as well as major corporations including Hallmark, Sprint and General Electric. A Colorado native, Tom received his BS in Journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he lives with his family in the Kansas City area.


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