NY Shelter’s Abused Pit Bulls Find New Lives As Service Animals For Veterans

Last fall, Kasper arrived at the Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona, New York, after being rescued from a dark, dank basement in Rockland County’s Spring Valley.  Twenty pounds underweight, missing part of his tail, deprived of food and water for untold weeks – this five-month-old puppy had already suffered at the hands of cruel humans.

And yet, like so many others pulled from the shadows, his tail never stopped wagging.  He was calm, mellow and needed to be around people. He was willing to give the two-leggers a second chance.  The staff at Hi Tor saw the specialness of Kasper and thought he would be an excellent candidate for a new program the shelter was developing with trainer Frank Pugliese, owner of Behavior Plustraining pit bulls to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

One of the programs Hi Tor sponsors to boost adoptions is the waiving of adoption fees for active and retired U.S. military personnel.  These two programs meld together perfectly!

Kasper, courtesy Behavior Plus

Volunteers pair already trained service dogs with dogs new to the program, so the newbies can see what’s expected of them.  Through trial and error, over the course of three to four months, they are also trained in the additional requirements needed to become a registered service dog. Volunteers take them to common places people generally go such as grocery stores, to acclimate them to different surroundings.

Says Pugliese,

“The dogs respond phenomenally.  Even some of the most abused dogs will turn over right away.”

Pugliese was inspired to begin the program because his son has a brain injury which causes him to lose his balance.  He relies on his service dog, Bella, to get around.

Kasper’s graduation ceremony, courtesy, Behavior Plus

And the first graduate from the Hi Tor program was Kasper!  He now lives with an Air Force veteran and their family in Utica, New York.  Check out the video of the ceremony!

Lilly-Ann Wilson, a Hi Tor volunteer whose husband serves in the Army National Guard Reserves, says,

“This new program is so needed. A lot of veterans are struggling and homeless dogs can do the job. It’s a matter of training them and finding them the right veteran.”

This program proves that any breed can be trained to do the job.     Transforming abused, neglected dogs with an undeserved bad rap, into model community members who now serve the people who served our country. ShelterMe.tv salutes everyone involved in this amazing rescue effort!

Working hard with Cocoa, adoptable dog at Hi Tor

Hi Tor will soon begin training their next candidate.  Maybe it will be one like Cocoa, who has been waiting for her home for two years. For more information on the veterans assistance program or to volunteer to help train/foster the next service dog, call 845-354-7900, visit hitor.org or email info@hitor.org, and check out the other animals in need at Hi Tor.

Click here to share more amazing animal stories! And catch a new episode of ShelterMe.tv, airing on PBS.

Lisa Blanck

Writing articles about animals for more than 22 years, she dove into the rescue world with the onset of Hurricane Katrina. As an outspoken advocate for animals, she's covered everything from paws to hooves, fins to feathers. She was the Orlando Animal Rescue and Worldwide Animal Issues Examiner for seven years. She's always thinking pawsitive, looking for ways to improve the lives of animals. She lives with one dog, one cat and one patient human. She welcomes your suggestions and is thrilled to be part of the ShelterMe.tv family!


  1. Colleen M King says:

    My ex husband had a pit bull tht was an see eye dog was so wonderful

  2. Karen Spagnuolo says:

    Thank God for Angels like you! By simply Being, you take the cast a ways of us all and Hope, Faith, Love is born in hearts, minds , living. I pray Father God always has you in His Blessed, Almighty, Healing Hand! For these are a few of the needed aspects those who were lost need so very much. If not for you the entire World would be cast aside into the darkness. Thank you for keeping Faith Alive <3

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