Minister Fantino announces service dogs pilot project to support Veterans with PTSD

Minister Fantino (right) and Veteran Daniel Drapeau (left) discuss the benefits of using service dogs to assist in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Veterans. (CNW Group/Veterans Affairs Canada)

GATINEAU, QC, May 27, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, shared with stakeholders Veterans Affairs Canada's (VAC) plan to support a pilot project to assess the benefits and risks of using psychiatric service dogs to assist in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Veterans.

The two-and-a-half-year pilot project has a goal of having up to 50 Veterans who are in receipt of a disability benefit for PTSD and have approval from their treating mental health professional, participating in the project. VAC will provide up to $500,000 to cover expenses and new research for the pilot project.

Quick Facts

  • In May 2013, VAC announced a partnership with St. John Ambulance Canada and Can Praxis to research the benefits of using therapy dogs and horses to assist Veterans dealing with mental health issues.
  • In September 2013, VAC announced a partnership with the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) to conduct a research assessment on whether psychiatric service dogs can assist individuals with PTSD. The research indicated that a pilot project was the appropriate step forward.
  • On May 12, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the introduction of the Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law), legislation that would ensure that those who harm law enforcement, service and Canadian Armed Forces animals face serious consequences.
  • VAC has a well-established national network of more than 4,800 mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses, who deliver mental health services to Veterans with PTSD and other operational stress injuries (OSIs).
  • VAC and the Department of National Defence have a joint network of 17 operational stress injury clinics, including 10 specialized clinics established by VAC.

Quotes

"Some Veterans will tell you that service dogs are more than man's best friend, they are companions who are an integral part of their day-to-day life. This project will help us study and learn how service dogs can help Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."
The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs

"Since 2012, Wounded Warriors Canada has been the national leader in funding PTSD animal assisted therapy programs for Canada's ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members and their families. The participant response from those who have received a service dog from the Courageous Companions Program that we fund has been overwhelmingly positive and, in fact, life changing. We applaud Minister Fantino's timely action and look forward to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs on this important pilot project."
Phil Ralph, National Program Director for Wounded Warriors Canada

"This pilot project is a concrete and positive step forward. As someone who has gained tremendously from my service dog, I'm proud to be involved in this effort to help Veterans with PTSD."
Captain (retired) Medric Cousineau, SC, CD, Founder of Paws fur Thought

"The Mental Health Strategy for Canada, released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2012, shared that shifting policies and practices toward recovery and well-being will require, among other things, finding innovative ways to support people living with mental health problems and illnesses to exercise choices in their journey of recovery. Certainly, the use of psychiatric service dogs to assist Veterans with PTSD is an innovative, emerging recovery-oriented practice. We look forward to hearing more about the pilot project and the ensuing research."
Louise Bradley, President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

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SOURCE Veterans Affairs Canada

Image with caption: "Minister Fantino (right) and Veteran Daniel Drapeau (left) discuss the benefits of using service dogs to assist in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Veterans. (CNW Group/Veterans Affairs Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140527_C7102_PHOTO_EN_40803.jpg

For further information:

Nicholas Bergamini
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
613-996-4649

Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada
613-992-7468