Veterans life insurance

More veterans will be paired with service dogs after $22 million funding boost

Local Veterans Advocate Laurie Mann has voiced her support for the Australian Government’s $22 million commitment to provide psychiatric service dogs to veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Psychiatric Service Dog Program matches trained dogs with veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

The funding will also support veterans who found a licensed service dog before the program began, by funding veterinary bills, pet insurance and vaccinations.

A hundred dogs with veterans

To be eligible for the program, veterans must have a Gold Card or Veteran’s White Card, have a current diagnosis of PTSD, and be in treatment with their mental health professional for at least three months.

Veterans are also required to complete a training program before being paired with a dog to ensure there are no issues related to dog management and welfare.

Service dogs can play a number of roles for veterans.(ABC Southeast: Jack D Evans )

Mr. Mann knows firsthand how important these dogs can be to the mental health of veterans.

“I have a psychiatric dog myself, and they save veterans’ lives; they also save a lot of medicine.” he said

“Dogs bring stability to your mental health; they take care of you and they also surprise you with their friendship and companionship.”

Mr. Mann’s dog, Indy, also helps him get around.

“I move on the gopher; she jumps to hit the traffic lights for me, comes back up and we’re good to go,” he said.

“She takes care of me if I’ve dropped something and has my back.

“She works very hard.”

Mr. Mann has had Indy for almost six years after having her as a puppy and training her himself before the program existed.

A guide dog walking on a leash.
Improvements in training practices could lead to benefits for communities around the world, the researchers hope.(Provided: Guide Dogs Victoria)

Many of the dogs used in the program had previously seen Royal Society for the Blind-trained observation dogs who had failed or been unable to find a mate.

Assistance dogs are usually Labradors or Labradoodles whose size depends on the needs of the veteran with dogs usually no less than 4 kilograms.

Mr Mann said service dogs can play a number of roles for veterans.

“They take care of mobility issues, mental health issues; they help them with certain jobs,” he said.

“They can pick up the laundry, open the doors, and wake veterans in the middle of the night when they have dreams that drive them a little crazy by turning on a light in the bedroom.”

“They can be trained to detect diabetes issues, respiratory issues; all kinds – it just depends on each veteran’s needs.”

laurie and indy 2
So far, the program has placed 100 dogs with veterans. (ABC Southeast: Jack D Evans )

Mr. Mann said funding is crucial as it can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 to train a service dog.

“For $22 million, that probably saves millions in psychiatric care, medications, and emergency resources that have to be consumed to care for these veterans.” he said.

“If you’re spending $22 million and you can save 22 lives or just one, that’s a value-added program.”