Study Measures Benefits of Service Dogs on Veterans with PTSD, Open For Participants

Florida veterans have a very special opportunity to participate in a study which takes the next step in researching ways to help veterans with the debilitating effects of PTSD.  So many times we hear “go find a mental health professional.”  This is, of course, a good plan of action, but sometimes more is needed.  This study, coordinated between the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, is taking that next step in finding another way for veterans to find and maintain long term recovery.

The science of anthrozoology, the study of the role of animals in the lives of humans and of humans in the lives of animals, is still new compared to other medical sciences.  Of course, “new” is subjective, since some scientific disciplines have been around for hundreds of years.  So this study has potential to strongly impact this field and give mental health professionals different ways to help veterans with PTSD.

The study is a covers two years, and is located in Florida, so participants do need to be local.  A total of 230 dogs are available, so the study is expecting 230 participants.  Each one of these specially trained  service dogs will be matched with a veteran.  The two won’t be paired just by randomly saying “hi, here’s your dog,” but in a much more thoughtful manner, taking into account the differences in personality and the individual challenges which the veteran faces from PTSD.  The two years begins separately for each pair, beginning when they are partnered.

For their part, the VA will pay for six veterinary visits per year, covering all the necessities such as vaccinations and parasite checks.  There is an emergency policy to assist if the dog becomes sick or injured.  The VA also pays $75 per month for food.  With average dog food prices, that should enable the veterans to provide their dogs with high quality food, ensuring the best continued health, and even possibly have some left over for the fun stuff like bones and toys.  Additionally, because the veteran is required to attend quarterly visits for the duration of the two years, they will receive $10 per quarterly visit.

During the quarterly visits, information will be gathered that will answer the research questions of the study.  Evaluations on how the dog is helping the veteran cope with the struggles of their PTSD, and other relevant health information.  The study is expecting that the results produced will show significant benefits for veterans when they develop a relationship with a service dog as part of recovering from PTSD.  These results will pave the way for the VA to make this PTSD treatment method available to veterans all over the country.

If you are a veteran currently in treatment for PTSD and would like more information about this program, please


Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Williston, Florida that trains highly skilled medical service dogs to assist the mentally and physically disabled with everyday tasks that they would otherwise not be able to do without a caregiver.


Photo thanks to pmarkham under creative commons license on Flickr.

6 thoughts on “Study Measures Benefits of Service Dogs on Veterans with PTSD, Open For Participants”

  1. I know a dog works .I have PTSD from WW11 .did fine withh drugs for a few years and it went into my sub-concious . When 9/11 happened it flared up twice as bad . my psychologist recommended I get a dog which I did and wonders happened . she is the light of my life and I feel very well . I love her dearly . when one is alone this means so much to have someone to love and be loved ,Fred

  2. My Family members in need of Dogs…Please listen closely and objectively. There are many great programs and trainers out there to fit your canine needs, think good and hard. I travel, enriching our active and recently retired wounded through Sports programs under the US Olympic and Paralymic Committees. During my clinics, I am seeing more and more canines and it makes me smile. Most our service related, others are for PTSD. Only half of those I’ve been introduced to, would be recognized as a legitimate medical needs dog under the ADA in a court room situation. The industry is being overloaded by need/want/generosity and many self trained or un-certified trained dogs are making their way into the hands of our brothers and sisters transitioning from the military wounded to the veterans admin recovering, providing them with a short term, one dog fix. We retire medically so much younger these days, please think of how many dogs you will need. Please choose your dog’s provider wisely. Last fall my dog and I made a series of Clician Assesment Films and PSAs for VA. We are hoping they will give them the guidence they need to help you find the proper resources for your needs. I took a lot of time to respond to this, and in 6 hours will be driving another 2 hours to my regional facility at Mountain Home VA, TN. Please do not get discourage by any of my comments below. In many VA VISNs this is a new process, so please be patient with them as well. But don’t come in armed with, or quoting the vaqueness of ADA Law on your side (very helpful, but very grey and can hurt you and your dog legally), The VA is Federal, not civilian, and definately does not have to be ADA compliant in every area. We recieve federal benefits for our service, that doesn’t walk in the civilian world.


    Psychiatric Care Aminals such as dogs that are being used to help our wounded active and ‘fresh’ veterans going through their PTSD and Combat Stress management programs should be aware that though the VA may, currently by individual Director’s discretion, pass along benefits to veterans that are partnered and successfull with their dogs, these rules will only apply to federal institutions that recognized these animals as Therapy or Pyshciatric Service Dogs. While the program is an important one, and the benefits to the responsible recipients are huge, in ‘The World’ the ADA will only recognized Service Dogs for all access public accomodation; not Therapy Dogs; that doesn’t mean that a local friendly shop owner or restauranteer won’t let them in, there is just a difference in liability. Also the FAA, Border, and INS though willingly provides for service dogs(sometimes with intense paperwork), can require addtional information and questioning (not stated in ADA for service dogs), plus can deny cabin, ship, or border entry for a Psychiatric or Therapy Dog that does not have complete credentials and physician documentation. Please understand the difference. It’s not just knowing the right thing to say to gain access, it’s actually being legit and having the proper understanding, ID, and paerwork.

    There is a ‘pending’ CFR for the VA, that clearly identifies properly trained service aminals such as Siezure, Guide, Assistance, and Hearing that have been certified by either ADI (Assistance Dogs International) and the IGDF (International Guide Dog Foundation) as properly trained, certified, and recognizable ‘Service Dogs’ for both Federal and Public use because of the long history and high standards of accountability required by both, The ADA does not recognized the Therapy or PTSD Dog as a ‘Service Dog’ unless its primary funtion is to assist in a physical capacity related to one’s injuries, with the PTSD being secondary, then it is a service dog…get it? Any dog will help you with your PTSD is properly trained. For anyone considering a PTSD Dog, please ensure that your facilitator or Training Company is an ADI certified program (or IGDF if sight impaired), the same goes for Service Dogs. PTSD Dogs will play a great role and fullfill a much needed service for our vets and especially their families. In order to keep the validity of all medical use canines, lets make sure they’re legitimate in thier training and liscensing. Regarless of what the ADA states, we above all individuals should ourselves and our canines to a higher standard. Federal Institutions run off of different mandates and directives. We are working extremely hard to regulate and provide fair and equal treatment for all Service Dogs; not only for our vets, but our active duty as well. There is a Bill pending Vote to become a Law (not a discretionary directive) called HR #1154 VETS (Veterans Equal Treatment of Service) Dogs Bill. You could pobably reference the forementioned CFR from that on the web (I can’t think of the nuber and page for it, but it’s in the federal registry).

    Mambo (my dog) and I have been working directly with Veterans Service Organizations, VA, Congress, the Senate, and the National Media for the past two years to get dogs into the lives of veterans and active duty transitioning out, while increasing awareness of ‘service dog’ access on bases and in local communities that are not exposed to Service Dog life-styles. Please do your part on staying informed, looking for the highest standards and support in your dog’s training…pay attention to detail…and not using the ‘vaque’ letter of the civilian law to grant an easy fix to an animal that would not pass the certifications named above. Being involved at the level I have been, I forsee the ‘pending’ CFR on ‘ADI & IGDF’ certifications to go into effect as a National VA Policy and Code, bypassing any descressionary ‘Directive’ proceedures that most regional VAs have in place now.

    My Dog and I will be present at our Capital’s Congressional Testimonies and Votes in the weeks to come; it’s a great honor to be a part of the testimony and the process. I hope it works well for all our Service, Therapy, and Cobination Dogs. Let’s hope this is done right the first time. My dogs changed my life, now I’m trying to help change our’s (Vets and active wounded) for the better. Wish us luck. I wish you great Vet/Dog partnerships, and I’d gladly respond to any feedback.


    Cpl. Kevin James Stone, US Army, 7th Light Infantry, Retired
    TEAM USA medalist (2004 & 2008) Paralympic Archery
    US Olympic Committee Paralympic Military Programs Coach and Clinician
    AMVETS Legislative Consultant

    …btw, I have a 50% PTSD rating, and 40% Brain Syndrome (frontal lobe brain decay), and I give all the credit for my post military careers to the fine training that went into my dogs 😀 Their services and training were strictly for my Spinal Cord and Leg injuries, my independance and freedom help to let go of most my PTSD naturally.

    1. What did you train them to do? Price would depend on what your neghrbois were willing to pay and on your skill level. If you are looking for training experience, volunteer at your local shelter. sure they won’t pay you but you’ll get lots of experience training many different dogs with different issues. Plus training helps the dogs get homes. If you are out to make some money, offering pet sitting or dog walking might be more up your alley.References : old balanced trainer

  3. I am so thankful that the VA is starting to investigate the use of service dogs for psychiatric needs.

    Mr Stone you are correct that Therapy Dogs does not have the right to access that is given to a Service Dog. Psychiatric Service dogs are as the name implies Service Dogs. The ADA makes no requirerment that a dog do any thing beyond being trained to do work for the individual they are assisting. There are no certifications necessary. I have PTSD and Depression. I am transgender also. While I don’t consider that to be a disablity, it does put me at an increased risk of being attacked. Because of the PTSD and my risk of being attacked without my dog Chestnut I would be a mess outside alone. But, with her I don’t need to be so afraid and aware because she does that work for me. If a man is walking behind us and she doesn’t like it she will stop me and turn me around so I can judge whether it is safe to continue or take other steps. Just because your disability is not mobility related doesn’t mean your service dog is without the rights afforded to guide dogs and hearing assistance dogs. The word service is very broad as are the needs that can be filled with a dog.

    Emily Frisbie
    L/Cpl USMC

  4. Lee R Waldon HM1 USN Ret/Viet Nam

    I am a Veteran with 100% SC with VA, With service twice in Viet Nam attached to 1st Mar Div 1st Recon Danag then Special Ops the 2nd time though my record dose not show that. I had need to know clearance & was pulled for many missions. You may also contact me on my cell phone (801) 472- 6002.

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