NewsMission Service


Vets Get Pets connects Nebraska veterans with companion pets from state shelters

Posted at 7:09 PM, May 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 13:07:29-04

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — They’re always happy to see you, and there for you in your lowest moments. No one loves you as unconditionally as your pet.

Just ask US Army veteran Scott Henry.

“He’s my right-hand dog,” Henry said. “He’s with me everywhere I go and gets upset if he doesn’t get to go.”

He’s talking about his new best friend, Bear.

Bear is a two-and-a-half-year-old Great Pyrenees. His name matches his size, but his personality is more like a teddy bear.

“His temperament is really nice. He loves kids, loves people,” Henry said.

The pairing came about after Henry suffered a stroke in 2021. He needed assistance with his stability.

He was introduced to a program provided by the First Responders Foundation called JAVELAN. The program provides affordable service dog training for veterans and first responders in need of support.

Now he needed to find a dog. That’s where Vets Get Pets came in.

“It was teary happy, you know, it was exciting,” said Henry.

Vets Get Pets was launched in 2021. The Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs program covers up to $350 in adoption fees for a pet from an animal shelter. Easily connecting veterans with companion animals.

“Mostly dogs but a few cats, and they don’t have to be service animals. They don’t even have to be dogs or cats, as long as it's from a licensed rescue or shelter in Nebraska,” said Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs Communications Director Holden Armstrong. “We’re just trying to get the word out to as many veterans as we can to utilize the program.”

Henry is the 50th veteran to gain a new best friend, and to experience all the benefits.

“It gives you something to look forward to. When you’re stuck at home like me all day, not able to do much,” Henry said. “We can go on a walk and ease the tension.”

“Just the feedback we’ve gotten from veterans who have gone through the program — it’s helped with loneliness, anxiety, things like that,” Armstrong said. “It gives you a reason to exercise, it gives you just so many things that are positives in your life.”

Scott added, “I’ll always have balance issues. That’s why Bear comes in handy. He’s a lifesaver when I need him. No more falls.”

It turns out Henry is a lifesaver for Bear, too.

Bear was on the list to be euthanized in Texas when the Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska took him in.

The rest is history.

“I really think the Vets Get Pets program is a win for so many people,” Armstrong continued. “It’s a win for the veterans. It’s a win for the animals. It’s a win for the shelters.”

“You know, it’s both of our second chances in life, and it’s been pretty special so far,” Henry said.

Bear and Henry’s first service dog training class with JAVELAN was Sunday. Henry told me ahead of the first class that Bear will, “Smoke it."

We will check in on the two — and JAVELAN — in a few weeks.

The adoptions are paid for through the purchase of Vets Get Pets license plates.

Any Nebraska driver can get those plates and all of the funds go directly to the program. The plates cost just $5, or $40 dollars if you would like them customized.

To purchase the plates and to learn more information about the program – click here.

If there’s a person or a topic you think we should cover for Mission: Service — tell us.