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 jwoestendiek 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 jwoestendiek 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
Andrew Clyde keeps a doberman pinscher named Kit at his place of business in Bogart, Georgia, to provide security.
Russ Murray keeps a black Labrador named Ellie at his side to help him deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder he has dealt with since serving in Afghanistan.
Over the weekend Russ and Ellie went into Clyde’s shop and were asked to leave — because the service dog was upsetting the security dog.
Murray was physically injured when his Humvee was blown up by an explosive device in Afghanistan. After his tour of duty, his PTSD reached the point he was afraid to go outside alone.
Since getting Ellie, a year ago, that has changed. With her at his side, Murray is able to go anywhere — except Clyde’s Armory.
According to Murray, the gun shop owner told him Ellie was disturbing his security dog, and would have to leave. Murray refused and was escorted out of the building.
Clyde told FOX 5, that the Americans With Disabilities Act allows a business owner to ask a person with a service dog to leave if the dog is being disruptive or alters the way business is conducted.
Clyde said that he’s also a disabled veteran, but that Kit needs to be allowed to do her job without distraction.
Murray’s attorney says a business owner is required to accommodate people with service dogs — even if it means bringing merchandise outside the store.
“I was just extremely hurt,” Murray said. “I have this animal to help me when I’m out and it really disturbing that a business would do that when she’s there to help me go into public.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: americans with disabilities, andrew clyde, animals, bogart, clydes armory, disabilities, disabled, doberman, dogs, ellie, georgia, gun shop, kit, labrador, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, russ murray, service dog, veterans
Dogs that survived the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan show symptoms not unlike those experienced by humans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study by a Japanese university says.
The research compared abandoned dogs rescued from Fukushima, site of the nuclear disaster, and Kanagawa, with non-disaster affected dogs abandoned in 2009 and 2010, before the earthquake.
The dogs that lived through the disaster had stress hormone levels five to 10 times higher than the dogs that were simply abandoned or found as strays, the researchers reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers at Azabu University in Japan took in eight dogs from shelters in Kanagawa Prefecture, where the 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to thousands of refugees being forced to abandon their dogs. The team took in 17 more dogs collected at shelters and rescue centers in Fukushima.
They measured their levels of physical stress by daily monitoring of the hormone cortisol in the dogs’ urine. All the dogs were later adopted by new owners.
The disaster-affected dogs had five to 10 times the cortisol levels of dogs not touched by disaster. When compared with the Kanagawa dogs, the Fukushima dogs were less aggressive toward unfamiliar people but also less attached to caregivers and more difficult to train.
They suggested that, in addition to showing similar syptoms, similar brain chemicals could be at play in dogs and humans trauma survivors.
“Humans affected by the disaster are already recovering and gradually returning to normal life,” the researchers wrote. “However, our results suggest the possibility that stress can induce excessive, deep psychosomatic impacts with implicit behavioral manifestations, such as deficits in attachment and learning ability also in dogs.”
(Photo: Shane was separated from his owner, Kamata-San,during the tsunami, but later showed up at the shelter where Kamata-san was staying. Credit: JEARS)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, animals, azabu university, brain, chemicals, cortisol, detached, dogs, earthquake, family dogs, fukushima, hormone, humans, japan, kanagawa, nuclear disaster, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, rescues, shelters, stress, symptoms, trainability, trauma, tsunami
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
The founder of Paws and Stripes — a nonprofit organization that provides disabled veterans with service dogs — says both he and his service dog, Sarge, were mistreated by United Airlines.
After waiting 48 hours in Dulles Airport due to cancellations and delays, Jim Stanek said he approached a ticket counter to get help understanding his revised itinerary.
He says he explained was having difficulty reading it.
“He said, ‘Just read it’ and I said, ‘Sir I can’t read it,’ and he said, ‘What are you retarded?’” Stanek recalled.
Wounded in battle, Stanek suffers from a brain injury that makes it difficult for him to concentrate under stress.
In addition to the insult, Stanek says, Sarge was kicked twice by United employees, leaving her “shaking like a leaf. It’s like she has PTSD.”
Stanek said the second, and harder kick came on a shuttle bus that was taking him from one terminal to another. An employee in a United uniform kicked the dog, he said.
“He said he was afraid of dogs,” Stanek said. “(He) kicked her so hard on the rib cage, that she literally jumped up into my lap.”
Stanek is encouraging others to register their concerns about how he and his dog were treated.
“I’m not asking for a red carpet, just treat me the way I’m supposed to be treated,” he said in a video he put together, recounting the incident.
Paws and Stripes works to provide service dogs for veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. The dogs are obtained only from shelters, and are trained by professionals to become service dogs.
Here’s Stanek’s account of what happened:
Posted by jwoestendiek July 25th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: airlines, animals, dog, dogs, founder, insulted, jim stanek, kicked, military, mistreated, paws and stripes, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, service dogs, shelter, united airlines, veterans
What at least one doctor prescribed, a New York housing complex says must go — a Shih Tzu that helps a seven-year Army veteran cope with his post-traumatic stress.
Eugene Ovsishcher returned from a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan suffering nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety, leading a psychiatrist and his family doctor to advise he get a dog.
Last August he did — a Shih Tzu puppy that he named Mickey because he crawled like a mouse. Mickey woke him from nightmares and served to calm him down when he was alone and anxious.
“Take a look at his face,” Ovsischcher told the New York Times. “You can’t stay anxious or angry or whatever. You look at that face and you start laughing.”
But those in charge at his housing complex, Trump Village in Coney Island, aren’t laughing. They’ve ordered him to get rid of the dog, in accordance with their no-pets policy, or leave.
Ovsishcher says he’d rather give up his home, where he lives with his wife, Galina, and their two children, Philip, 15, and Yaffa, 10.
“I can’t get rid of a family member,” said Ovsishcher, 42, who enlisted in the Army five years after immigrating from Moscow in 1994. “If they asked me which I want to keep, the kids or the apartment, I would keep the kids. Same thing with the dog.”
Ovsishcher says that the building staff has seen him with his dog since Mickey showed up in August and that nothing was done to remove him until February, when he received a warning letter. Under New York law, a loophole allows dog owners who don’t receive notification to get rid of a dog within 90 days to keep their dogs. He also says he applied to register Mickey with the building as a comfort dog, but he was turned down.
A subway repairman, Ovsishcher served with NATO troops in Kosovo, and then as a field artillery sergeant in Afghanistan, where enemy rocket fire took a toll on him psychologically.
Ovsishcher’s lawyer, Maddy Tarnofsky, has filed a federal housing discrimination complaint on his behalf.
“The heart of this story is that there is a guy who comes to this country and enlists and puts himself in harm’s way,” Ms. Tarnofsky said. “He didn’t have to do this, and he comes back damaged and they spit on him. A doctor recommends he have a support animal, and for some unknown reason they decide that they’re not doing this for him.”
(Photo: Ángel Franco / The New York Times)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afghanistan, animals, army, brooklyn, co-op, comfort, coney island, doctors, dog, dogs, eugene ovsishcher, evict, eviction, health, housing, kosovo, new york, no pets allowed, pets, post traumatic stress, psychiatry, ptsd, service, shih-tzu, subway, support, therapy, trump village, veteran, worker
Just like their human counterparts, dogs in the military can suffer the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder — and they’re doing so at a rate nearly as high as humans.
By some estimates, more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD, according to a report in yesterday’s New York Times:
“ … (T)he concept of canine PTSD is only about 18 months old, and still being debated. But it has gained vogue among military veterinarians, who have been seeing patterns of troubling behavior among dogs exposed to explosions, gunfire and other combat-related violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Of the dogs who show symptoms, about half are likely to be prematurely retired from service, said Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base.
The Times article, accompanied by the beautiful photograph above, reported that dogs show the symptoms in different ways, much like humans with the disorder. They may become hyper-vigilant, undergo temperament changes, turn aggressive with their handlers, or start becoming timid and clingy, avoiding areas that they had once been comfortable in.
Most crucial of all — at least as the military sees it — they can also stop doing the tasks they’re being relied on to perform.
“If the dog is trained to find improvised explosives and it looks like it’s working, but isn’t, it’s not just the dog that’s at risk,” Dr. Burghardt said. “This is a human health issue as well.”
The number of dogs on active duty has risen from 1,800 in 2001 to about 2,700. The training school headquartered at Lackland prepares about 500 dogs a year for deployment.
Combining all branches of the armed services, more than 50 military dogs have been killed since 2005, the article reported.
Dr. Burghardt uses videos to train veterinarians to spot canine PTSD, such as this one of a dog that, while he has no problem inspecting a car, refused to go inside a bus or a building.
Treatment of dogs suspected of having the disorder can range from taking them off patrol and allowing them to just be dogs for a few days to ”desensitization counterconditioning,” which involves exposing a dog, in increments, to sights or sounds he’s reacting nervously to and rewarding him when he doesn’t react.
Dogs that do not recover quickly are returned to their home bases, and those that continue to show symptoms after three months are usually retired or transferred to different duties, Dr. Burghardt said.
(Photo: Bryce Harper for the New York Times)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afghanistan, animals, army, article, canine ptsd, care, combat, dogs, forces, humans, iraq, lackland air force base, military dogs, new york times, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, service, soldiers, symptoms, treatment, veterinarians, walter f. burghardt, war
Disabled vets and homeless pets would be brought together for the mutual benefit of both under legislation recently passed by the House and now headed to the Senate.
The legislation would create a pilot program that trains shelter dogs to provide therapy to help treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other war-related mental health conditions.
The House unanimously passed a package of veterans’ health care legislation that included the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, introduced by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.
“As a veteran, and an American, I am thrilled that this legislation has passed the House, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass it without delay, so that it can be signed into law and allow us to begin providing assistance to our returning veterans,” said Grimm, a Marine combat veteran from Operation Desert Storm.
The many potential benefits of the program were outlined by Michael Markarian on his Humane Society Legislative Fund blog, Political Animal:
“For wounded warriors and disabled veterans, caring for a pet can help them re-enter society and minimize stress and depression. Service dogs can also reduce the suicide rate among veterans, and provide other critical help—such as letting them know when it’s time to take medication, waking them from terrifying nightmares, or detecting changes in their breathing, perspiration, or scent to ward off panic attacks. Such benefits can decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care…”
“Our veterans need and deserve every opportunity to heal. This innovative legislation gives the wonderful dogs in shelters a chance to live and to serve by helping to heal the stresses and wounds so many soldiers battle when they come home.”
The bill would establish a pilot program in VA medical centers for educating veterans with mental health conditions in the art and science of assistance dog training and handling. It directs the secretary of Veterans Affairs to “consider dogs residing in animal shelters or foster homes for participation in the program.”
The Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act — one of six bills combined into a larger veteran’s health care bill — was the first Rep. Grimm introduced as a member of Congress, and his first bill to pass the House, according to a press release from his office.
(Photo: Courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal shelters, animals, bill, congress, disabilities, disabled, dogs, health care, house, michael grimm, new york, pets, pilot, post traumatic stress disorder, program, ptsd, representative, shelter, therapy, therapy dogs, veterans, veterans dog training therapy act, war
David Sharpe credits a pit bull with saving his life, and, ten years later, he’s trying to give other veterans suffering from war-related post traumatic stress disorder that same helping hand.
Ten years ago, Sharpe was holding a revolver in his mouth and was prepared to pull the trigger when his six-month-old pit bull Cheyenne licked his ear.
“It was just one of those looks dogs give you,” Sharpe told the Washington Post. “It was like, ‘What are you doing? Who’s going to take care of me? Who else is going to let me sleep in this bed?’”
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I owe her my life.”
As the Post article this week pointed out, “this is a different kind of tale of K-9 Corps bravery, distinct from those exploits of grenades sniffed out and warnings barked. Cheyenne’s heroics were in her unconditional devotion.”
Sharpe was a security guard for the Air Force and returned to the U.S. ten years ago with post traumatic stress disorder — though it wouldn’t be diagnosed for several more years.
“I couldn’t talk to anybody — not my father, not the counselors — but I could talk to that dog, and she never judged me,” Sharpe says. “We don’t want to hear, ‘Wow, that must have been horrible.’ We just want to talk.”
In 2002, visiting a shelter with a friend, he had adopted Cheyenne, one of seven pit bulls who’d recently been rescued from a fighting ring. “She was the force that pulled me back into society,” says Sharpe, 32, who is now a program analyst in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Sharpe is trying to give other shelter dogs a chance to save other emotionally wounded warriors, through P2V.org (Pets to Vets), a nonprofit group that links service members with shelter animals and helps them with related expenses and training.
Sharpe got the idea for P2V after seeing a documentary on the role service animals can play in a veteran’s recovery — dogs that cost thousands of dollars to train and generally require a long wait.
Sharpe saw a more direct route — and one that can save dogs and humans.
“Eighteen vets commit suicide every day in this country, and one animal is put to sleep every eight seconds. They can help save each other,” he said.
It costs P2V about $650 for each adoption, including veterinary care, supplies, health insurance and the training consultants the groups make available. So far, P2V has matched 47 animals to vets, many of them former patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
(Source: Washington Post)
(Photo: By Carol Guzy / Washington Post)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 24th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: air force, animals, david sharpe, dogs, p2v, pets, pets to vets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, rescue, save lives, shelter, therapy dogs, veterans, vets, walter reed, war