Tag: post traumatic stress disorder
It has been more than five years since Congress approved a $12 million Veterans Administration study into whether veterans with PTSD can benefit from psychiatric service dogs.
Since then hundreds of veterans with PTSD have been learning first hand of those benefits — but either on their own dime, or with help from nonprofit agencies.
Meanwhile, the study hasn’t gotten too far. It has been suspended twice, and reinstated twice, moving along at a snail’s pace. Or what some might call the VA’s pace.
There are even those, such as Rick Yount, executive director of the nonprofit Warrior Canine Connection, who have questioned whether the study had been set up to fail so that the VA wouldn’t have to pick up expenses for psychiatric service dogs, as it does for service dogs helping veterans with physical disabilities.
The VA’s chief veterinary medical officer, Michael Fallon, called that insinuation “ludicrous.”
And yet, during the past five years, the study has gone anything but smoothly.
The VA cut off two of the three dog vendors following biting incidents involving participants’ children. Only 17 dogs had been placed with veterans when the final contract was terminated in August 2012 amid allegations of lax veterinary care and placement of dogs “with known aggressive behavior,” according to VA records.
Meanwhile, questions have arisen about how the dogs that have been placed are being trained, and whether the tasks they are learning to perform benefit a veteran with PTSD or only reinforce their paranoia, according to the Associated Press.
Specifically, the dogs are being trained to do things like sweeping the perimeter of a room before a veteran enters, or protecting the veteran by “blocking.”
“Isn’t that saying that al-Qaida could be behind the shower curtain? That’s supporting paranoid, pathological thinking,” said Meg Daley Olmert, chief research adviser for Warrior Canine Connection and author of a book on how contact with a dog can create a sense of well-being.
Warrior Canine Connection, a Maryland-based nonprofit that uses veterans to train service dogs for other veterans, believes the dogs should be trained to pick up on cues from PTSD sufferers and then provide the appropriate support, such as learning to wake someone up during a nightmare or detecting when a veteran is anxious, and interacting in a way that helps calm him.
Between the questionable training protocol, all the studies delays (only about 40 dogs have been placed with veterans), and the VA’s ongoing contention that the benefits for service dogs for PTSD sufferers has not been proven, some wonder how objective the study is going to be.
Not everyone is willing to wait for the study to run its course.
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis recently introduced a bill that would take $10 million from the VA’s budget to immediately begin pairing service dogs with post-9/11 veterans for whom traditional PTSD treatments hadn’t worked.
At a hearing before a Congressional committee last week, Dr. Michael Fallon, Chief Veterinary Medical officer Fallon, repeated that “the benefits of service dogs in assisting people with mental health diagnoses have not been established in scientific literature.”
But Rory Diamond, the executive director of K9s for Warriors, told the committee that research already shows veterans with PTSD receive extraordinary benefits from service dogs, including allowing them to elminate their use of medications, handle anxiety better, and reduce suicidal thoughts, nightmares, and night terrors.
“There are thousands of veteran suicides that could have been prevented if they would have had access to a service dog,” Diamond told Congress.
(Photo: Army veteran Joe Aguirre with his service dog Munger; by Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, blocking, congress, controversy, delays, dogs, hearing, k9s for warriors, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, protocol, psychiatric service dogs, ptsd, questions, service dogs, study, sweeping, therapy, training, trauma, va, veterans, veterans administration, warrior canine connection
A 19-year-old survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing was told her service dog was not allowed to walk the aisles of a TJ Maxx in New Hampshire.
Sydney Corcoran says she was shopping at the store in Nashua when a store manager said her service dog needed to be placed in a store-supplied “carriage” or leave the store.
Corcoran suffered shrapnel wounds in the bombing and her mother, Celeste, lost both legs. Sydney Corcoran got Koda, her service dog, to help her deal with post-trauamatic stress disorder.
“He’s crucial to my everyday life now,” she told WCVB.
Last Thursday, Koda was wearing his service dog vest when a manager approached and said, “If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage.” Sydney said she informed the manager that Koda is a service dog and that he wouldn’t be able to fit comfortably in the carriage. The manager, she said, told her the carriage was a new policy, and that she was required to comply.
“She said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘That’s not good enough. You should have known,'” Celeste said. “You just made someone with an emotional disorder so much worse.”
She added, “There are so many people with invisible, silent injuries — and the public needs to be aware that their service animals are sometimes their lifeline.”
TJ Maxx said in a statement: “We are taking this customer matter very seriously. Customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals are welcome in our stores at any time.
“We have looked into the particulars regarding this customer’s experience and deeply regret that our procedures were not appropriately followed in this instance. We are taking actions which we believe are appropriate, including working with our stores to reinforce the acceptance of service animals.”
(Photos: Top, Sydney and Celeste Corcoran with Koda, WCVB; bottom, Celeste and Sydney in this year’s Boston Marathon, Reuters)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: americans with disabilities, apology, bomb, boston, boston marathon bombing, celeste corcoran, disabilities, federal, koda, law, marathon, new hampshire, post traumatic stress disorder, service dog, store, survivor, sydney corcoran, tj maxx
A pit bull mix, she served as an unofficial helper to her owner, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. But when he moved to a new apartment, Layla, lacking documentation as a service dog, wasn’t allowed to live there.
Tim McGill began working to get Layla certified, and in the meantime asked some friends to look after his 3-year-old dog.
Now McGill has gotten the certification, but he can’t get his dog back.
McGill served in the Army in South Korea and Iraq and left the service with a brain injury, anxiety and flashbacks, KDKA in Pittsburgh reports.
A doctor recommended a dog, and — though Layla wasn’t a certified service dog — having her by his side helped, said McGill, a tattoo artist.
McGill says he moved to a Lawrenceville apartment to go to the Art Institute, but that, without any documentation that Layla was a service dog, she wasn’t permitted to live there.
So he asked a friend, Laura Stratemier, to watch over Layla until he could get her certified. In exchange, he offered to repay her with free tattoos for both her and her husband.
Stratemier admits she was only supposed to have Layla for two weeks, but said that as time went by — six months worth of it — she realized the dog was better off with her.
By the time the certification papers for the dog came through McGill, Stratemier was unwilling to give Layla back.
KDKA reports that local animal control officials are looking into the dispute.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 1st, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, apartment, certification, certified, custody, dispute, dog, dogs, Laura Stratemier, layla, mix, move, ownership, pets, pit bull, pittsburgh, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, service, tattoo artist, tattoos, therapy, tim mcgill
Raven, a Lab-shepherd mix who still has some issues of her own to overcome, is in training to become a service dog for Katie Bales, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It is a great feeling to take a dog that was in a shelter and know that it will change the life of someone who needs it,” Natalie Tayman, the founder and executive director of the rescue group Willow’s Second Chances, told the Jacksonville Daily News.
Raven was only 3 months old when she was labeled aggressive and scheduled to be put down in Duplin County, said Tayman. After hearing about the dog, she gave her a temperament test just a few hours before her scheduled euthanization, removed her from the shelter and placed her in a foster home.
“I know that Raven will do whatever (Katie) needs her to do,” Tayman said. “(Raven) will assist Katie in her daily life and help her do things she can’t do herself. (Raven) will prove to be very valuable to Katie and can potentially save her life.”
Raven, now 7 months old, is still fearful of crowds. She’ll continue to be trained well after she is a year old, Tayman says.
“It meant the world to me getting that phone call from Natalie saying she found me a dog,” Bales said. “It means I get a friend for life, someone to help me on my difficult days.”
“I know in my heart that Raven will bring me happiness and give me a way to focus my energy especially when I’m lost thinking about what’s happened to me. She’ll give me a normal life again,” said Bales, who plans to leave the Marines in June and attend the University of Tampa.
“Because of her I’ll get my life back.”
(Photo from the Jacksonville Daily News; by Chuck Beckley)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 24th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, death row, dog, dogs, duplin county, euthanasia, jacksonville, katie bales, lab, marine, marines, mix, north carolina, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, raven, rescue, shelter, shepherd, willows second chances
About 100 dogs were gunned down execution-style in British Columbia when a company that offers sled dog tours apparently decided that, due to a downturn in business, it could no longer afford to maintain them.
The shocking revelation of the mass killing (the industry prefers the term “culling”) surfaced through the British Columbia Worker’s Compensation Board, where a company employee filed a claim saying that killing the dogs, on April 21 and 23 of last year, caused him post-traumatic stress disorder.
The SPCA in British Columbia has launched an investigation into the incident.
“Culling” — or thinning the “herd” — is apparently not an uncommon practice among sled dog companies, according to the SPCA, either in the U.S. or Canada, where the sled dog tour industry is largely unregulated.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone engaged in the illegal killing of sled dogs in either country.
The 100 dogs — used in sled dog tours operated by Outdoor Adventures — were gunned downed while tethered. The employee, acting under the orders of his boss, began shooting dogs as other dogs watched. Some of the dogs panicked and attacked him as he carried out the task, he said.
“By the end he was covered in blood,” the workmen’s compensation review board noted in its Jan. 25 decision, which ruled the employee did develop PTSD in connection with the incident. “When he finished he cleared up the mess, filled in the mass grave and tried to bury the memories as deeply as he could.”
The full report from the board was obtained by The Vancouver Sun.
In addition to sparking an SPCA investigation into allegations of animal cruelty, the report has led to a suspension by Tourism Whistler of reservations for dog sledding excursions by Outdoor Adventures.
Outdoors Adventures, which also offers snowmobiling, snowshoeing and horseback excursions in the Whistler area, said in a statement that there are now no firearms on site and all future euthanizations will be done in a vet’s office.
Marcie Moriarty, head of the British Columbia SPCA cruelty investigations division, said the employee, who was the general manager of Outdoor Adventures, could and should have denied to carry out the orders from his boss.
The employee said he has suffered panic attacks and nightmares since the culling.
“I’ve no doubt he has suffered post traumatic stress but there’s a thing called choice,” said Moriarty. “I absolutely would not have done this and he could have said no … I don’t feel sorry for this guy for one minute.”
“The way this employee describes it — it’s a massacre absolutely … These dogs were killed in front of the other dogs that were all tethered up on the compound.”
The order to kill the sled dogs came after a veterinarian declined to euthanize healthy animals, and some attempts were made to adopt out the dogs, the employee told the review board.
SPCA officials say the incident sheds some needed light on the industry.
“There is a problem with the sled dog industry in general,” Moriarty said. “People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think how great. But what they don’t see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel.”
Posted by John Woestendiek February 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 100 sled dogs, adventures, animal legal defense fund, british columbia, chained, cull, culled, culling, dogs, gun, investigation, kill, killed, killing, mush, mushing, outdoor, outdoor adventures, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, shot, sled dogs, spca, tethered, tourism, vancouver, whistler, workmens compensation
There are those who say psychiatric service dogs aren’t “real” service dogs — that, unlike guide dogs for the blind, they merely make their owners feel good and provide nothing more than comfort.
Iraq war veteran Jennifer Pacanowski sees it differently — especially after, unaware she was going 85 miles an hour on the freeway, a wet nose nudged her elbow, bringing her back to reality.
The wet nose belonged to Boo, a 110-pound Bull Mastiff who warns her when her anxiety levels are rising. Pacanowski slowed down, and lived to tell the story, which is recounted in an article on psychiatric service dogs in U.S. News & World Report.
The article reveals that the U.S. Department of Defense is starting a 12-month study to find out exactly how the dogs help — by comparing soldiers with PTSD who have dogs with a similar group of soldiers without a dog. Researchers will measure changes in symptoms and medication use.
“We want to provide evidence for something we know observationally and help create a movement towards the use of psychiatric service dogs,” said lead investigator Craig T. Love, senior study director at Westat, a research corporation in Rockville, Md. “It’s time to make a change.”
Pacanowski is one of dozens of veterans and others who already know what the study seeks to substantiate. Boo, only a year old, has been helping her deal with her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a result of her experiences as a medic in the war — since December.
“Sometimes I forget where I am and will go back to the war in Iraq. He brings me back to reality and makes me realize that I can’t run people off the road. It’s a frequent thing with PTSD to have road rage,” said Pacanowski, who lives in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Boo is one of a team of “psychiatric service dogs” being used to help people with various mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and, perhaps most notably, PTSD.
“If a dog observes when a person with PTSD is escalating, the dog will be able to signal that they are escalating and, given it’s so early in process, the person can manage and even prevent the escalation,” explained Joan Gibbon Esnayra, president and founder of the Psychiatric Dog Service Association.
The dogs have been in service for about 12 years and while patients and professionals alike know they work wonders, there has been no real empirical evidence of their value — and, as a result, they often receive neither the respect or funding opportunities of guide dogs.
“A recent survey showed that 82 percent of patients with PTSD who were assigned a dog had a decrease in symptoms, and 40 percent had a decrease in the medications they had to take,” added Dr. Melissa Kaime, director of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), who spoke at a telebriefing last month. “I fully expect this will be positive trial.”
You can learn more about psychiatric service dogs at the Psychiatric Service Dog Society website.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 4th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: boo, department of defense, dog, dogs, iraq war, jennifer pacanowski, mastiff, post traumatic stress disorder, psychiatric service dogs, ptsd, soldiers, study, therapy, u.s. news & world report, veterans
How a golden retriever named Tuesday is helping an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress was the subject of an excellent story in yesterday’s The Wall Street Journal.
Trained to help Luis Carlos Montalvan with his unseen injuries, Tuesday is a psychiatric-service dog — or, as the article referred to it, a “Seeing Eye dog for the mind.”
Tuesday, who is with Montalvan around the clock, has been taught to recognize changes in his breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack.
Montalvan, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered during an ambush in Iraq, is one of the estimated 300,000 veterans who will ultimately develop PTSD — few of whom will be able to get access to dogs like Tuesday.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Gloria Gilbert Stoga, president of Puppies Behind Bars Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that uses prisoners to train animals. Tuesday is one of 11 psychiatric-service dogs it has placed. It hopes to provide 14 more this year.
Tuesday was eight weeks old when he and five siblings were turned over to Puppies Behind Bars. He was sent to New York’s Fishkill Correctional Facility. The pup shared a cell with John Pucci, a convicted killer who was given responsibility for molding Tuesday into a service dog.
Pucci taught Tuesday to respond to 82 commands geared mainly toward helping the physically disabled — turning on lights with his nose, retrieving food from shelves, helping load washing machines. In doing so he won a bet with fellow inmates, who didn’t think Tuesday could be trained. “I got released before I could collect the cigarettes,” said Pucci, 64 years old, who served 29 years.
After that,Tuesday received additional training, based on Montalvan’s needs — such as reminding him to take his pills, and serving as a buffer when Montalvan gets stressed out by large crowds.
Montalvan walks with a cane as a result of his physical injuries, but he says his biggest problems are emotional. “Sometimes my mind goes jumbled,” he said. “Everything just gets kind of cloudy.”
Tuesday also accompanies Montalvan to to Columbia University, where he’s studying journalism and communication.
“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Montalvan, 36. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.'”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 12th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: army, assistance, dogs, golden retriever, iraq, john pucci, luis carlos montalvan, post traumatic stress disorder, prisoners, psychiatric service dog, ptsd, puppies behind bars, service dogs, train, tuesday, war