Pet Connections

Pets for Vets: Trainers Needed for Lifesaving Program

By Joanne Moore, Chief Programs Officer at Animal Friends

“He gets me out of bed in the morning!”  

“He has encouraged me to get active again and motivates me to remain connected to the world around me on my tough days.” 

“She has made me laugh more in the past two weeks than I can ever remember laughing. I just don’t have words to explain what she means to me!”  

These are just a few of the testimonials from veterans who have found a special healing connection with a companion animal through the national Pets for Vets program. Pets for Vets helps to heal the emotional wounds of military veterans by pairing them with a shelter dog, cat or rabbit specifically selected to match his or her personality. Animal Friends is proud to announce that we are now the Pittsburgh Chapter of Pets for Vets – and we need your help!

Key to the success of the Pets for Vets program is the animal trainer. A trainer will work to help identify a shelter pet who will fit with the veteran’s lifestyle. A multi-week “training camp” in the home of the trainer teaches good behavior and introduces a home environment and lifestyle.  

“The selected animal spending time in the home of the trainer is what sets Pets for Vets apart from other adoption programs,” says Chapter Director and Director of Placement Services for Animal Friends, Kellie Roberts. “Many of the Pets for Vets clients are living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury and this training helps to reduce the stress for the veteran by ensuring the animal is well-mannered and prepared for a home environment.” 

Trainers need to have either professional or personal experience handling dogs, cats or rabbits. They also need a solid foundation in training and theory and use only positive reinforcement techniques. The Pets for Vets training curricula was designed by the organization’s founder and animal trainer, Clarissa Black. During her experience working with therapy dogs in the company of America’s veterans and wounded soldiers, Clarissa saw firsthand how important animals can be in recovery. Her own experience with PTSD has given her a unique perspective on the training each pet receives, as well as being able to recognize what each veteran needs from his or her companion animal.

Recruiting trainers is the current focus for the program. Pets for Vets national coalition of trainers serves as a resource for Chapter Trainers by providing support and guidance all along the way. 

“We know it is a commitment from the trainer,” says Ann Black, Pets for Vets’ Board of Directors President. “But if the trainer is willing to work with just one animal a year, that is a life changing event for a veteran.”

Animal Friends and Pets for Vets covers the cost for all animal expenses incurred by the trainer. “We want to make this as easy and convenient for the trainer as possible and we include a stipend for the trainer’s services,” says Roberts. 

To learn more about this program and how you can participate please visit  or call Kellie Roberts at 412.847.7097.


December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023