MAURICE RIVER — To assist the men and women who've sacrificed so much, and in the process saw things no one should ever have to see, this Cumberland County township is launching a unique program that just needs some takers.

According to Mayor Patti Gross, Maurice River intends to provide service dogs to at least two veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, free of charge. It's open to individuals in Cumberland County only.

If a veteran were to attempt to purchase a service dog on their own, Gross said, the associated costs could amount to about $20,000.

But, through working with a number of organizations, the township believes it can bring the costs down substantially.

"Our goal is raise approximately $6,000 per dog," Gross told New Jersey 101.5, noting the township will work under the nonprofit Maurice River Twp. Firefighters Association to raise funds.

Ideally, she said, the township will adopt dogs that can be trained. If a veteran and dog are found to be a good match, the veteran will take the dog home and a trainer will visit a couple times a week for up to 15 weeks to fully establish the vet-service dog relationship.

The township has also teamed up with a local veterinarian who's agreed to provide routine visits for the animals.

Gross said raising the necessary funds likely won't be an issue. Finding veterans who are willing to admit they need help could be the bigger challenge.

"Nothing can start until we find the veteran," she said. "If we have people that we turn down, if there's people that are interested, then we'll just keep raising money. We'll just continue to do it. That would be the best problem we could ever have."

Gross said the county's department of veterans' affairs hopes the township's program can serve as a model to municipalities and counties across the state.

To inquire about the program, contact Mayor Gross at 609-381-3402 or pgross@mauricerivertwp.org.

To donate to the cause, make checks payable to:

MRT Firefighters Association
164 Main Street
Heislerville, NJ 08324

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