North Texas Daily

PAWS pairs pets with veterans

PAWS pairs pets with veterans

April 15
23:50 2013

Mallory Scudder / Contributing Writer

An animal rescue group is helping soldiers overcome post-traumatic stress disorder by pairing them up with a free pet.

Pets Assisting Wounded Soldiers is a nonprofit animal rescue organization that aims to aid military veterans and their families with rehabilitation through animal therapy.

Animal lover Traci Ratliff, 34, whose husband served in the military, established PAWS in 2011. She said she said has seen  first-hand how interacting with animals can help returning veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. She also wants to save pets from euthanasia.

“One adoption can save two lives,” Traci Ratliff said.

Her husband, Terry Ratliff, 33, suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as PTSD, after returning from his third tour in Iraq.

“The medication issued by Veterans Affairs wasn’t working, and he was very untrusting of people,” Traci Ratliff said. “I knew I had to try something else.”

Together they decided to start fostering animals from overcrowded animal shelters, but one dog in particular changed their lives.

Gabby, a 4-year-old pit bull mix that was found abused and malnourished, became a permanent member of their home. Gabby had similar trust issues as Terry Ratliff, but together they overcame them, he said.

“Gabby has helped me learn to trust again,” Terry Ratliff said. “She is a constant source of unconditional love.”

Soon after that, the Ratliff family went from fostering a few animals to running the animal rescue organization, PAWS, from their own home.

Today the organization still operates at their home in Corinth. Although they don’t operate an animal shelter, they have plenty of volunteers and foster homes.

“We currently have three dogs being loved in foster homes until they find their forever homes,” Traci Ratliff said. “It’s the quality that we provide, not the quantity.”

In the two years it has been operating, PAWS has matched four dogs and one cat with veterans, free of charge.

PAWS’s first rescue was a 2-year-old German shepherd named Colonel. The Ratliff family saved Colonel the day before he was scheduled to be euthanized because of overcrowding at a shelter.

David Walters, a U.S. Army soldier from the 187th Infantry Regiment Rakkasans, said he felt adopting Colonel was fate.

“The fact that I was attempting to adopt a dog that was named Colonel and from a fellow Rakkasan, I knew it was meant to be,” Walters said.

The adoption process requires an application, references from veterinarians or friends and an in-home visit. Non-military persons can adopt animals as well, but must pay a $150 adoption fee.

PAWS runs entirely from donations and volunteers, and charges people only so it can afford free adoptions for veterans.

Walters said he continues to keep in contact with PAWS and often sends pictures of Colonel.

“I’m a strong supporter of any organization that shows support for veterans, and if you throw in that they find pets a loving home, then you have a perfect organization known as PAWS,” Walters said.

For more information on PAWS, please contact the Ratliff family at (940) 642-8779 or email address is TNTPAWS@gmail.com.

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