A two-year study is underway, seeking scientific proof that service dogs help military vets suffering from PTSD. Conducted by Purdue University researchers, the project is led by Maggie O’Haire, professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Many Stories, Little Scientific Data
Service dogs help vets with psychological, as well as physical, challenges. With the proper training, which is expensive, these animals reduce the impact of PTSD, depression and anxiety.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that vets benefit greatly from the companionship of service dogs. One example is Nick Hamilton, who did three military tours in Iraq. He now suffers from PTSD, an all-too-common condition for vets.
With the help of Zoe, his service dog, he is making it through his everyday life routine. But prior to Zoe coming into his life, he says, “I was on the verge of succumbing to PTSD, to taking matters in my own hands the wrong way.”
Service Dogs Are Expensive
Nick’s story is common. That’s why each year, more and more vets seek the help of service dogs. But the cost can be many thousands of dollars. Insurance doesn’t cover it. Neither does the Veteran’s Administration.
Numerous nonprofits currently try to keep up with demand. Groups like K9s 4 Dogtags, Pets for Vets, Healing 4 Heroes and Alpha K9 rely on donations to fund the long and complex training the dogs need to go through before being certified as service dogs.
But the demand far exceeds the supply, and nonprofits can’t keep up. The Veteran’s Administration currently doesn’t cover these costs for the vets or the nonprofits.
Insurance companies don’t expand coverage and government policy doesn’t change based on individual experience. Both need evidence backed by science.
Seeking Data to Change Policy
That’s where O’Haire’s study comes in. With a half-million dollar grant, she and her team at Purdue will work with vets from all over the U.S.
Participants will get the use of a service dog for a brief period. The vets’ sleep quality, stress levels and activity levels will be measured using wristbands.
For example, O’Haire says vets often report that their service dogs will wake them up from a nightmare and comfort them. This is a situation that can be monitored during the study.
Each of the participants will be evaluated by a doctor before and after the period with the service dog. The wristband will measure specifics with the dog. Monitoring all of this will transform anecdotal evidence into scientific graphs and metrics.
O’Haire says, “We need to give [vets] a voice in a way that insurance companies and policymakers will understand. And the language that they speak is science and evidence.” She hopes her study will provide the data that will convince government groups and insurance companies to handle the costs.
Support for Service Dogs
USA Service Dog Registration knows how important service dogs are to their owners. They make a more normal everyday life possible for vets and others with mental and physical challenges.
That’s why they offer free and simple service dog registration. With just 3 steps, your service dog, emotional support dog or therapy dog will be registered. The website also offers an extensive list of resources, with information on state laws, housing laws, a list of trainers, airline requirements, airline relief areas for support dogs, and more.
The USA Service Dog store stocks vests, ID cards, collars and tags. They also have a variety of gear for emotional support and therapy dogs. These products make it easier for the public to realize the animal is a working support dog.
Register your service dog today at USA Service Dog Registration.
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