ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- Kasper the pit bull is happy these days at work as a service dog with his new owner, a veteran who needed help and a little companionship.
His new life is pretty amazing considering a few short months ago, Kasper was brought to the Hi Tor Animal Care Center in pretty bad shape after being mistreated and left in a basement of a home with no food or water.
Kasper is the first of what the center and trainer Frank Pugliese hopes is a long line of service dogs the center will be able to train over the coming years.
"Kasper was our pilot dog and he was a perfect choice," said Pugliese, a center board member and the owner of Behavior Plus, a dog training business.
The idea of the service dogs came from the volunteers at the center who see so many "nice" dogs that don't have a chance of getting adopted, especially pit bulls that most people are afraid of, said Pugliese.
They are currently in the process of picking the next dog to train for the program that is geared toward veterans with PTSD and other issues.
It's not an easy, or fast process, he added.
First, you have to find a dog that fits, then they have to meet their potential new owner to see if they match, and then the dog goes through at least three months of service training.
But, if the program will save a few dogs and help a few veterans, Pugliese is willing to donate his time to the program.
"It can be a long wait for service members to get a dog and it can be as expensive as $6,600 to train a dog," he said.
It's also a way for the center to draw attention to how many dogs and cats are unwanted and need a home. And, a way for the center to raise much-needed funds to take care of them, Pugliese said.
"They do a great job with what they have, but every donation helps the animals in need," he said.
Veterans interested in the program can contact the center at 845-354-7900. To donate, click here. The center is located at 65 Firemen's Memorial Drive, Pomona.