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
- Call Carol at Guardian Angles Medical Service Dogs at 352-425-1981.
- Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.