Lavonne L. Bower, Founder
While LaVonne Bower did not serve in the military, she’s made PAWS her life mission knowing that she has the ability to help Veterans in ways that are even more meaningful. LaVonne’s step-father served in the US Army (insert more details) and her husband and VP of PAWS served seven years active duty in the US Army.
LaVonne’s passion to help others is unwavering. She first began as a victim’s advocate and later transitioned once she found Oz. LaVonne and her husband, Matt, fostered and adopted Oz from a local animal rescue shelter. LaVonne quickly recognized her and Oz’s calling as people are quickly drawn to Oz and her other rescue Paxton having lost their back left leg due to injuries. Their ability to adapt and overcome their physical limitations are inspiration to all who come in contact with them.
Through Oz, Paws and Warriors was born. While Oz and Paxton conduct various dog therapy sessions for organizations such as Baypines VA, All Children’s Hospital, and SMART Sarasota Association for Equine Therapy’s (SMART) Warriors in Transition (WIT) program, helping veterans find an emotional support or service animal is what PAWS does best.
LaVonne’s strength is largely defined by her overcoming breast cancer in 2017 while just beginning PAWs. LaVonne’s inner-strength has been the foundation of her passion to help Veterans enjoy a life they once knew. Through various networking and relationships built, PAWs is able to help find the right rescue animal no matter where the Veteran may live.
With funding from generous donors, PAWs helps finance the Veteran’s rescue adoption and delivery expenses and, when necessary, does whatever it can to raise the necessary funds for service animals.
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.
Through LaVonne and Oz, 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, Motherruckers and The Brian Bill foundation, to connect Veterans with therapy animals.