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Tag: ptsd

Man arrested for saving dog locked in car

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A Georgia man used a leg support from his wife’s wheelchair to smash the window of car containing a panting dog — and promptly got arrested.

Michael Hammons, a veteran of Desert Storm, said he saw a group of people standing around a Mustang in a shopping center parking lot in Athens, worrying about the safety of a small dog locked inside, without water.

“I just did what had to be done,” Hammons told 11 Alive in Atlanta.

Shortly after he broke the window, the dog’s owner came back to the car.

“She said you broke my window, and I said I did. She says why would you do that? I said to save your dog,” Hammons recounted.

Oconee County authorities said they arrested Hammons at the insistence of the car’s owner.

Georgia state law, while it allows rescuers to break a car window to save a child, doesn’t make that same allowance for those who do it to save dogs.

Chief Deputy Lee Weems said officers had no choice but to charge Hammons: “We didn’t want to charge him, but he told us he broke the windows and when you have a victim there saying she wants him charged, we had no other choice.”

Hammons wife, Saundra, said her husband suffers from PTSD and that he’s prone to coming to the rescue of those he perceives to be in danger.

“He has seen so much, and been through so much, his thing is he’s got to save him. Michael says I have to save lives because I couldn’t save everyone else over there,” she told Fox News in Atlanta.

The car’s owner said she had only been in the store for five minutes, but deputies issued her a citation as well.

“It wasn’t just five minutes like the lady stated, it was a lot longer,” Hammons said. “I personally felt the heat in the car; I saw the dog panting. This dog was in distress.”

“I’ve got PTSD, and I’ve seen enough death and destruction,” Hammons added. “And I didn’t want anything else to happen if I could prevent it.”

Hammons said he’d do the same thing again.

“I knew there’d be consequences, but it didn’t matter. Glass? They make new glass every day. But they could never replace that dog.”

A hard hitting ad from guide dog foundation

This public service ad for a Dutch service dog foundation certainly isn’t the typical “awwww”-invoking stuff you see from do-gooders trying to raise some money.

It’s pretty chilling, as is its tagline: “We not only help people who cannot see, but also those who have seen too much”

The ad was made for the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF Geleidehonden), which in addition to supplying guide dogs for the blind, also trains assistance dogs for veterans coping with PTSD and other war-induced traumas.

Established in 1935, the organization has trained over 5,000 dogs for guide dog users in various parts of the Netherlands.

The ad won the the Gouden Loeki (a Dutch commercial award) in 2014.

Darling won’t you ease my worried mind


Layla — a dog most appropriately named for this particular story — has become the subject of a custody battle in Pittsburgh.

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.

Shelter dog, scheduled to be put down, gets second chance as Marine’s service dog

A three-month old puppy who’d been deemed aggressive and was hours away from being put down is now in training to become a service dog for a North Carolina Marine.

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)

Killing 100 sled dogs gave him nightmares

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.”

Navy dog handler’s hazing under review

rocha“An atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation and physical assaults.”

It may sound like a description of Abu Ghraib, but what’s being characterized is the U.S. Navy’s Military Working Dogs Division in Bahrain, better known as “The Kennel.”

An internal Navy investigation into the unit found dozens of examples of hazing and sexual harassment against multiple sailors between 2005 and 2006, including the case of Joseph Rocha, a gay sailor who left the Navy in 2007 after being abused for two years. Rocha says the constant hazing he received while serving as a military dog handler led to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., has asked the Navy for information about the harassment, the still mostly under-wraps internal investigation, and an explanation of why the head of the military working dog unit at the time was promoted.

Sestak’s letter followed a story about the Navy findings of abuse — reported not by the mainstream media, but by Youth Radio, a California organization that teaches reporting, broadcast journalism and media production to youth from public schools, community-based organizations, group homes and juvenile detention centers.

The Youth Radio investigation found that between 2004 and 2006, sailors in the Military Working Dogs Division — on the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf — were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation, and physical assaults.

A Navy spokesman said the allegations are being reviewed.

“The incidents that occurred within the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Support Activity Bahrain do not reflect who we are as a Navy,” said Cmdr. Cappy Surette, a Navy spokesman. “The Navy is now looking into the handling of this situation more carefully.”

Rocha – despite the Navy’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy –  was repeatedly asked if he was gay, primarily because he didn’t  avail himself of visiting prostitutes.

Shaun Hogan of Maine, a former Bahrain colleague of Rocha’s who is now a reservist, said Rocha was treated worse than others because it was believed he was. Hogan said some in the unit “blatantly asked” if Rocha was gay. It was Hogan who obtained the Navy’s report and shared it with Youth Radio.

“He was one in a large number of people who were abused for a variety of different reasons,” Hogan said.

Rocha’s PTSD prompted him to tell the Navy he is gay, at which point he was discharged.

(Photo: via Youth Radio)

Psychiatric service dogs: More than “comfort”

2r1There 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.

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