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When veterans have to go to the hospital, this group steps in to foster their pets

Olga, a 7-year-old Malinois and a veteran mine-detection dog, practices for obedience training at the Mine Detection Center in Kabul.

J.P. LAWRENCE/STARS AND STRIPES

By JEFF WILKINSON | The State | Published: February 14, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — Pawmetto Lifeline, an organization that advocates foster care for stray animals as an alternative to shelters, on Wednesday unveiled a new program to help military veterans and their pets.

The “Boots for Service” program provides foster care and medical care for pets of veterans who have to enter the hospital and have nowhere to put their furry (or feathery, perhaps) friends.

By partnering with the U.S. Veterans Administration, the privately funded Pawmetto Lifeline organization will support identified veterans who might put their pet’s needs above their own and not seek treatment.

”It was an unknown need in South Carolina,” Pawmetto Lifeline CEO Denise Wilkinson said. “The vets have no family and their pets are the only love they have in their lives. (With the new program), they take care of themselves and have no worries. When they get out of the hospital, we give them their pet back.”

The program is funded by the Michael J. Mungo Foundation, which will pay for the services on an as-needed basis. The foundation honors the late founder of Mungo Homes of Columbia.

The “Boots for Service” program provides:

  • Boarding
  • Foster homes
  • Training if needed
  • Medical services including vaccinations, micro-chips, spay-neuter surgeries and basic care.

The program was named for “Boots,” the English bulldog of South Carolina First Lady Peggy and Gov. Henry McMaster that passed away two years ago.

Longtime advocates for animal rights, the McMasters unveiled the new program at a gathering at the American Legion Post 6 in Columbia. They were joined by Maj. Gen Robert Livingston, the state’s adjutant general; Stewart Mungo, a son of Michael J. Mungo who heads the foundation; and the McMasters’ new English bulldog, Little Mac, who was celebrating his second birthday.

”If they are in trouble . . . and they have a dog or a cat, and they have to go to the hospital, what are they going to do?” McMaster said. “That causes more trouble. So this is a great, great program. I don’t know how many other states are doing this. But we are.”

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