Leach hopes military men and women who must give up their pets will stay away from city- and county-run shelters, which often euthanize animals in a matter of days.
Instead, she says, bring them to SOS, which will try to find homes through a program called Companions in Arms. Leach can't directly take animals off soldiers' hands, but instead searches statewide, with the help of other animal-rescue groups, to find temporary or permanent placement for pets left behind.
The program began a year and a half ago, when a dog named Ginger was surrendered to the city pound after her owner was called by the military to serve in Afghanistan. SOS, fearing the dog would be euthanized, showed Ginger on Channel 6 and immediately got offers from people wanting her.
The speed of that adoption encouraged Leach to set up Companions in Arms. It's had some success stories, like finding a home for a Suffolk-area Labrador retriever that originally had been rescued from an abusive breeder by a member of the military police. SOS also pays for the pets' shots and spaying or neutering.
But, so far, the program has only received about eight animals. "We would like to help more," Leach says. The problem is, she believes, is that soldiers often have only 24 hours to prepare for deployment. "They really don't have time to react, and they don't know of the options," she says.
It's a small, but important way to support the troops, she says. And it beats trying to smuggle a Rottweiler on board an aircraft carrier.
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