After enrolling fewer than two dozen of a planned 230 dogs in the study — all paired with vets with PTSD — the VA has announced that the study has been suspended, and that, from now on, service dogs will only be paired with veterans with visible disabilities.
The new policy goes into effect today.
For the 400,000 veterans diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, that means dogs — despite all the positive effects that have been reported — will no longer be part of their treatment and recovery.
Among those blasting the decision is the American Humane Association.
Just days before its second annual celebration of hero dogs, the organization took time to put together a petition, calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse the new policy.
“Our focus on animal-assisted therapy dates back to 1945 when we promoted therapy dogs as a means to help World War II veterans recover from the effects of war,” the AHA said. ”We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle.
“Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest though their physical pain and mental anguish. We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans…”
Specifically, the new VA policy ends the program that reimbursed veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder for their use of service dogs while in recovery.
“It’s of the utmost importance that we provide our vets with every option available to treat service related ailments,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who was also shocked to learn of the new policy.
“Especially as the wars are winding down, and more and more soldiers are returning home with mental trauma, the VA must continue to allow their doctors and mental health professionals to provide benefits to veterans who need mental health service dogs,” he said.
Congress mandated that additional scientific study be conducted on the impact of service dogs paired with PTSD vets several years ago. But apparently that study never got off the ground — at least not as ambitiously as planned.
Launched in June 2011, the study planned to follow 230 PTSD vets and their service dogs, tracking them and their families through 2014. Only about a tenth of that number were registered for the study, though.
The study was halted, according to reports, because of concerns about dogs biting children, dirty and cramped living conditions, and faulty record-keeping.
According to the VA, there are about 400,000 veterans currently in treatment for PTSD, and that group has higher than normal rates of divorce, substance abuse, unemployment and suicide. There are 32 to 39 suicide attempts daily among vets with PTSD, about half of which result in death, according to a column by the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Dale.
Dale’s column looks at the benefits of programs such as those provided by Paws for Purple Hearts – an improved quality of life, fewer flashbacks and nightmares. Vets paired with dogs are said to be more likely to find jobs; less likely to become recluses.
“One hallmark of PTSD is avoidance (of going outdoors and socializing with others),” says Robert Porter, executive director 0f Paws for Purple Hearts. “That’s hard to do with a 60-pound dog who just wants to go out and play.”
The study was a chance to prove, beyond the anecdotal, just how much therapy dogs could help vets with PTSD. But, for reasons that make little sense, both the study and the concept were canned.
Most of the dogs in the study were from Guardian Angel Medical Services of Williston, Fla., and its founder and director, Carol Borden, says there were no biting incidents reported.
Borden says that in the organization’s history, veterans with PTSD nearly always benefit from having a dog. Some patients have been able to cut their medication in half, or stop taking it altogether, she said.
That has raised questions among some about whether pharmaceutical companies lobbied for the new VA policy. That’s conjecture, of course — conjecture being something that tends to occur when no logical explanation is given.
The VA owes vets, not to mention Congress, an explanation.
And we all owe veterans afflicted with PSTD a chance to get past it, or at least cope with it. Ruling out dogs and dropping the study is an oath broken, a promising avenue bypassed, and a slap in the face to veterans.
“We’ve not experienced a single suicide attempt as far as we know,” Borden said of vets paired with dogs under the Guardian Angels program. “I have letters from wives thanking us because the husband has returned, and it all happens because of a dog who provides unconditional love.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, american humane association, animals, benefits, ceased, charles schumer, congress, department, disabilities, divorce, dog, dogs, dropped, drug abuse, employment, funding, guardian angel medical services, halted, paws for purple hearts, petition, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, programs, promised, ptsd, ptsd dogs, reimburse, reimbursement, senator, service, study, suicide, terminated, therapy, va, vet, veterans, veterans affairs
Commissioners in Fairfield County Ohio voted unanimously to stop gassing dogs to death at the county shelter in Lancaster — but not until after allegations surfaced that some dogs who survived the gas chamber were being incinerated while still alive.
In a 3-0 vote, the county commissioners yesterday approved immediately switching the euthanasia procedure at the dog shelter to lethal injection, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
The campaign to euthanize by injection in Fairfield County had gone on for more than 10 years. Fairfield County was among about 10 of the state’s 88 counties that still use gas to euthanize dogs. It’s also where, witnesses say, there have been instances where dogs who survived the procedure were cremated while still clinging to life.
Fairfield County Dog Warden Mike Miller has said he euthanizes four to six individually caged dogs at a time with carbon monoxide because it is cheaper than injection and avoids the liability of someone getting hurt. The dog carcasses are then burned in the crematory located next to the gas chamber, the Dispatch reported.
The Dispatch story makes no mention of the alleged burning of live animals, but in a piece on Examiner.com, written by Ariel Wulff, a correspondent we know and trust, says citizens at the commissioner’s meeting spoke of some cases where dogs came out of the shelter alive, only to be thrown into the incinerator with the dead:
“… Eyewitnesses and former workers at the shelter have said that the gassing is fraught with problems; from overfilling the gassing cage with as many as twice the allotted animals, to untrained workers being forced to euthanize, and animals being burned alive.”
The shelter has destroyed more than 180 dogs this year.
Wulff also authored a post at PetPardons.com, which has additional disturbing details, and recounts the shelters other problems over the years.
Other reports say as many as 16 animals have been gassed at once, and that exceeding the limit of six animals at a time is probably the reason some dogs survived the procedure.
(Photo courtesy of PETA)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 15th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alive, allegations, animals, burned, claims, commissioners, dog, dogs, ended, euthanasia, fairfield county, gas, gas chambers, gassing, halted, incinerated, ohio, pets, shelter, stopped, survivors
According to a university spokeswoman, the practice, which usually involves euthanizing the dogs after the surgeries, has existed since the vet school was created.
It will end this summer.
Based on an account in the Kansas City Star, the decision was based partly on “sensitivity,” partly on saving money.
“People perceive that surgeries being done on companion animals are worse than on other animals like swine,” said Mary Jo Banken, university spokeswoman. She also noted that using pigs is cheaper.
Other vet schools in the region, including Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said they do not use live dogs in training that ultimately leads to euthanizing the animals.
The dogs the university has purchased for surgeries were raised “specifically for this purpose,” Banken said. She said 117 dogs were put down after student-performed surgeries last school year.
Banken said the school has been trying to phase out the practice for nearly three years.
The dogs have been used so students can practice spaying, neutering and other surgeries. Third-year students in the school’s surgery and anesthesiology lab class, where the surgeries are done, are not forced to operate on live animals that they know will be killed afterward, Banken said. They have the option of using cadavers instead. But, she said, operating on live animals is “just more realistic.”
This year, the university partnered with the Central Missouri Humane Society to give students practice in spaying and neutering dogs and cats. Operations are done for free at the Humane Society in Columbia.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, central missouri humane society, dogs, euthanasia, halted, health, laboratory, live, medicine, neuter, pets, phased out, pigs, practice, schools, sensitivity, spay, students, surgery, surgical, training, university of missouri, veterinarians, veterinary school
Greyhound racing appears headed for an end in New Hampshire.
The state’s two dog racing tracks won permission yesterday to drop all racing dates.
Paul Kelley, executive director of the state Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission said commissioners approved applications from both the Lodge at Belmont and Seabrook Greyhound Park to cease dog racing and operate solely as simulcast betting centers, and as host to charitable gambling events, the Union Leader reported.
The move comes as a new state budget bill takes effect July 1, allowing tracks to drop their live racing and continue simulcast wagering. The decision could be the end of greyhound racing in the state. A third track, in Hinsdale, closed late last year.
Rick Newman, who represents the Belmont track said the decision was a financial one. “It costs a lot more money to run live racing than we get from it,” he said.
The Grey2K USA group, which fought to end greyhound racing, said the budget bill removed the last reason for tracks to continue dog racing.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: belmont, cease, commission, dog racing, end, gambling, greyhound, halted, lodge, new hampshire, racing, seabrook, state, stopped, tracks