Lavonne L. Bower, Founder
In towns everywhere shelters are full of animals at risk of euthanasia, that have great potential to serve a purpose given the opportunity. Veterans can relate to the their anxiety and hidden scars. They can see how the animals have overcome hardships and adapted to survive and thrive. The animal is a reminder to keep fighting and moving forward. LaVonne saw this effect firsthand after she fostered and adopted her dog Oz who was saved by a local rescue organization from the local kill shelter.
LaVonne fostered Oz with the intent to adopt him. She noticed very quickly that people were drawn to Oz and his gentle, no-quit demeanor. After getting him certified as a pet therapy dog, the two of them volunteered at Blake hospital, Baypines VA and, eventually becoming part of the Sarasota Association for Equine Therapy’s (SMART) Warriors in Transition (WIT) program.
A pit bull mix, Oz was automatically at risk for euthanasia due to his breed when he entered the shelter. To make matters worse, his back leg had been shattered in an accident. Luckily, Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue stepped in to save him, but in order to get have the necessary and expensive back leg amputation surgery, he needed a foster home.
LaVonne witnessed how well Oz interacted with Veterans and their families, and how impressed they were by his resilience and optimism. Just as impactful, she heard from them about how difficult and expensive it was to get their own Service animals.
PAWs was born, and has since worked with organizations like Goodwill Manasota, Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, Operation Second Chance, Black Dagger Military Hunt Club and The Brian Bill foundation, to connect Veterans with therapy animals.