No benefits for four-legged veterans, until now

Matt Saintsing
July 18, 2018 - 5:12 pm

Photo Courtesy of Ron Aiello

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Ron Aiello really, really loves dogs. As one of the first U.S. Marine Corps Scout Dog teams sent to Vietnam in 1966, he’s seen first-hand the bravery, loyalty, and, yes, charm these four-legged troops displayed in combat. 

But when these rather friendly veterans return home and retire after a successful military career, they’re completely cut off from any and all benefits. “There are no medical benefits, no medical care, no prescription drug payments,” says Aiello. They don’t have the luxury of filing a VA benefits claim.

Now, as president of The United States War Dogs Association, he’s doing something about it. 

Photo Courtesy of Ron Aiello

Since 2013, the nonprofit organization has provided everything from hip replacements to radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments, emergency surgeries, wheelchairs, and of course, prescriptions, to around 740 former military and government agency military working dogs, or war dogs, as Aiello calls them. 

And they’ve paid for every cent of it, lifting an immense financial burden off the shoulders for those who adopt these courageous canines. Instead of worrying about how they’re going to pay the exorbitantly high veterinary medical bills, they owners can focus their attention on what matters the most, giving these retired dogs a great life following their service. 

“When the dogs retire, it’s for a reason,” says Aiello. They often have severe medical issues caused by their service and are on multiple expensive prescriptions. And whoever adopts these dogs take on the responsibility of caring for them over the rest of their lives, which can easily translate into hundreds, or even thousands of dollars each month. 

He’s seen everything from various cancers, to skin conditions that require special food and medications, to respiratory problems, and even war dogs with post-traumatic stress.

“People don’t realize that dog medications are expensive, sometimes as expensive as for humans,” he adds. “And sometimes these dogs are on anywhere from two to eight prescriptions.” 

Photo Courtesy of Ron Aiello

With hundreds of dogs in their system, Aiello says his organization spends around $20,000 each month. That’s $20,000 each month that isn’t paid out of the pockets of those who care for these pups, and the medicine shows up at their doorstep without any money being exchanged. 

Here’s how it works: when the retired dogs are adopted, owners can fill out forms on the U.S. War Dogs Association’s website. The war dog is then enrolled into their system and whenever a veterinarian prescribes the pooch some pills, a pharmacy in southern New Jersey fills it and mails the medication to the owners. 

And if the dog needs specialized surgery or other complex medical care, Aiello says they can take care of that too. That’s because for the past three years, Red Bank Veterinary hospitals throughout the Garden State, where U.S. War Dogs is based out of, will do any procedure for the dog with no bill being sent to the owners. 

Anything from hip-replacements to other surgeries to cancer treatments and even dental care is provided, as long as the owners go through Aiello’s group. They’ve had dogs travel anywhere from Delaware to California and beyond to get the free care at various Red Bank animal hospitals in the New Jersey. 

Photo Courtesy of Ron Aiello

The organization is able to pay for the prescriptions—and other frighteningly expensive medical care, thanks to a relationship the organization has with two pet stores, Pet Valu and Pet Super Market

Pet Valu had been fundraising for U.S. War Dogs Association for eight years now and more recently purchased Pet Super Market, who are doing the same.  By selling $5 American Flag bandanas, the pet supply chain has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Aiello's group. 

“There’s no way we’d be able to send out all the prescriptions without the help of Pet Value and Pet Supermarkets,” he says. “They’ve been a God-send when it comes to bringing help to these retired dogs.”

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