Stephen Cline and Darcy Sanders are two Shelby natives who have started a nonprofit organization called Veterans With Pets. The purpose of this organization is to help veterans with pets with adoption and veterinary bills. The Animal Medical Center of Ontario is “ground zero,” as Cline describes it.
Years ago, Cline had a dog who had serious health issues that were costing him a lot of money. He was a single dad raising two toddlers in the aftermath of the pandemic and the $600 vet bill was detrimental.
He worried about how he was going to pay this bill and still provide for his family. He wanted to make his canine companion well again because they were an important part of his life. Cline asked the vet’s office if they had a veteran discount program he could utilize to help pay for his bill.
The answers were ‘no’ every time. Cline said he remembers thinking, “I can’t believe I’m the only one who’s going through this. There should be something like that.” Others agreed, saying that it would help out so many local veterans.
Cline admitted that he struggles with PTSD himself, being a veteran. He said that animals can be so comforting and supportive when dealing with PTSD. He mentioned that his dog, who has since passed, provided comfort and companionship during some of his darkest times.
Cline mentioned studies that had been done showing the benefits of veterans having pets, especially elderly veterans. “It is important that people are able to have dogs, if they can, and afford an emergency if it comes up, and that’s where we step in. I don’t want anybody to have to choose between themselves and their dog,” he said.
Cline and Sanders met about five years ago when Cline’s home remodeling company did a project at Sanders’ home. When he decided to get the organization up and running, he had to choose officers.
Sanders was his first choice to assist with the financial side of the organization because she has a heart for this type of issue. They had been working on the organization since November of last year and launched the website in January of 2023.
Unfortunately, Veterans With Pets has not been successful quite yet in obtaining funds or being able to help veterans with vet costs. Granted, the organization is very new and they are doing their best to market as much as they can. Cline said that they are working on organizing fundraisers and different marketing strategies.
Currently, they are planning a 5K-K9 run for July where you can bring your dogs to run/walk with. They plan to have the Richland County Dog Shelter bring adoptable pets to the 5K and have participants walk them. One or two may even get adopted!
Both Cline and Sanders are originally from Galion but have lived in Shelby for quite some time. They both describe enjoying living in Shelby for the excellent school system and the “small-town feel.”
Cline also described having good experiences with the Shelby Police Department. “I like how everybody knows everybody, it’s a town you can feel safe in,” commented Sanders.
A long term goal for the organization is to expand it to different states. They want to help as many veterans as possible through this service. Cline made it clear that he wants the process of accessing vet bill funds to be as painless as possible for veterans.
The QR codes included with this article can be scanned to take you to their Facebook page or their website where you can learn more and donate to help vets pay their vet bills.
Donation boxes will also be set up at the Animal Medical Center of Ontario if you have some extra cash to spare. Cline and Sanders encourage people/veterans to message the Facebook page to ask questions, donate, or ask how they can help the organization. Please consider donating to Veterans With Pets to assist local veterans with their vet bills.
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