October 31, 2023

Leashes of Valor: A Lifeline for Veterans

Leashes of Valor (LOV) is a nonprofit organization that supports Veterans by pairing them with service dogs from local shelters. Based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the 501(c)(3) provides psychiatric service dogs at no cost to post-9/11 Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other “unseen” wounds of military service.

The inspiring story of Capt. Jason Haag and Axel
Retired Marine Corps Capt. Jason Haag founded LOV in 2015 after receiving his own service dog, Axel, whom he credits with saving his life. True to Haag’s own story of a rescue dog rescuing him, Leashes of Valor sources its dogs from shelters whenever possible, with the belief that one leash can save two lives—the life of the dog and the Veteran.

Haag’s journey with Axel
After three combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, Haag suffered from debilitating symptoms of PTSD and multiple TBIs. Despite many years of conventional treatment that included medication, outdoor therapy, counseling and a 30-day stay at an in-patient clinic, Haag experienced only temporary relief.

Then he met his service dog, a German shepherd rescue named Axel, in 2012, years before psychiatric service dogs were a commonly accepted treatment for Veterans with PTSD. Haag and Axel eventually began traveling the country together, educating the policymakers and the public on the benefits of service dogs. Their work helped to redefine service dogs to include psychiatric support in 2014, and earned Axel the title of American Humane Service Dog of the Year in 2015. Read the story in VA News.