Military service members, their families and veterans can adopt a dog, cat or rabbit for free in late May, confirmed San Diego County officials.
San Diego County Animal Services will waive adoption fees for the military starting Friday, May 26 through Sunday May 28.
Every 69 minutes a U.S. Veteran dies from suicide and every day there are 3,200 dogs euthanized nationwide, according to the Shelter to Soldier website.
The adoption fee waiver aims to give back to men and women in uniform, by providing them with a new animal friend at no charge, said County officials.
Veterans who adopt pets occasionally develop the bond of a lifetime. They are often supported through rough patches with help from their four-legged friends.
"It’s one of those things that you just can’t describe. It’s just something that I have with him," said Ben Kilhefner, U.S. Navy Veteran while stroking his dog Tank, in a previous interview with the county. "He's goofy, he's loveable, caring."
All the adoption fees will be covered by an organization called Animals for Armed Forces. That includes the cost of vaccinations, spay/neuter, a microchip, licensing and a free veterinary exam within ten days of adoption.
"Ben came to our facility -- his chin chattering, his hands shaking, his eyes at the ground," said Graham Bloem, the Founder and Training Director of Shelter to Soldier.
"And I grabbed Tank, the first dog I had in mind that I thought would potentially be a good match for Ben anyway. We watched before our eyes his breath slow down, his hands stop shaking. His chin stopped chattering," explained Bloem.
There are three animal care facilities offering free adoptions to military service members and vets.
Qualified residents can stop by any of the County facilities from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They can choose from hundreds of animals up for adoption, said County officials.
"He’s always leaning against me, putting his paw on my foot, trying to establish that connection still to make sure, hey I’m okay," said Kilhefner. "Just like right now. He saw that I was having a nightmare and stuff. He just knows and he’d kind of wake me up."
Any active duty, reserve and veterans of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, National Guard and their immediate families may qualify for the adoption fee waiver.
"What we’re doing does help because I just witnessed it. Tank was originally found as a stray. And his future wasn’t looking very bright. I think we got Tank just in time," said Bloem. "I didn’t train Tank to wake Ben up from a nightmare but the connection they had created that response."
In order to qualify, potential adopters must bring one of the following types of photo identification: military ID, Dependent ID, Veterans ID, DD-214 and driver's license or NGB Form 22.
More than 30 locations across southern California and Utah are participating in the Animals for Armed Forces event.
If you need more information, call County Animal Services at (619)767-2675.