Veterinarians Helping Veterans: Paws of War comes to Eisenhower Park

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Sparky the service dog got a check up from the Paws of War Vets2Vets Mobile Veterinary Clinic.

The Paws of War Vets2Vets Mobile Veterinary Clinic stopped by Eisenhower Park in Westbury on May 6, despite the rain, to provide free health services to the service animals assisting veterans and first responders.

Paws of War, a non profit organization, provides wellness checks, vaccinations, microchipping and other support to service animals. The Eisenhower Park event was co-sponsodred by Nassau County Legislators Laura Schaffer, Thomas McKevitt, Rose Marie Walker and Thomas Ferretti. Veterinarian Dr. Marisa Altieri and vet tech Donna Beierle was providing the care to the animals that day. The Vets2Vets Mobile Veterinary Clinic returns after a brief hiatus during the pandemic.

“We can never do enough for our veterans,” said McKevvitt. “And certainly we know veterinary care can be expensive, so this is a great organization that is giving one more benefit to veterans and one less thing you have to worry about in life.”

Paws of War helps care for service animals all across Long Island, who ultimately return the favor for their veteran care takers. “We try to do this in all different communities,” said Kelli Porti, the veteran outreach community liaison. “We’ve been very fortunate and after the pandemic we lost our veterinarian, so we were able to connect with Dr. Marisa [Altieri] and we were able to start providing that [service] back to our communities again.”

The May 6 session was the second after the pandemic, and Paws of War is bringing the Vets2Vets Mobile Veterinary Clinic back on June 17 on the south shore in East Islip.

“We are going to try to fit in as much as we can as the weather allows,” Porti, an army veteran herself, said.

Anyone who is a veteran or first responder can access these services, and they do not need to be a member of Paws of War.

“[The response from the community] is strong,” said Porti. “We were fully booked and we had two cancellations due to weather. We had one or two walk ins, so overall we’ll have 16 to 20 [service animals] treated in about four hours, which is great. So far we’ve had a pup who needs a follow-up, which we’ll take care of. It’s an outstanding day. We’re absolutely happy to be here.”

One of the veterans taking advantage of the services, Gene Smith, brought his service dog Sparky, who he’s had for four and a half years. Smith said Sparky always knows when he’s in pain and he’s always there, helping him. Smith served in the U.S. Army between 1986 and 1990.

“When I heard of Paws of War, I said ‘we need to bring this to Nassau County,’” said Legislator Laura Schaffer, explaining how she helped bring Paws of War to Wantagh before the pandemic, and worked with fellow legislators again to bring them to Eisenhower Park on May 6. “I just think it’s a great organization. People should be happy to donate and be aware of it and the more I can help to do that, the more happy I am.”

It’s certainly an organization everyone can get behind.

“Veterans and animals,” Schaffer said. “It’s great. It’s a great service they provide.”

To learn more about Paws of War, visit pawsofwar.org.

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