Service dogs for PTSD veterans can become valuable partners in helping to reduce anxieties and other feelings that limit social or physical activity. The structured routine of caring for a service dog on a daily basis can also help keep veterans oriented to time and place, as well as provide a means for engaging in social situations. Benefits of
having a dog for veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) include:
- Companionship for those with little to no family or friends.
- Grounding in reality, with a focus on a routine, including care and feeding of the animal.
- Reduce stress & anxiety related to P.T.S.D., lower blood pressure, and possibly allow the individual to become more functional in social situations.
- Assist in waking from night terrors.
- Retrieve medications and water or drink to take medications.
- Provide a safe space when out in public, by standing in front of, behind, or circling the individual.
- Activate an emergency alert button or system.
The process for receiving PTSD service dogs is not difficult, though it may take some time. There are some restrictions and qualifications a veteran must meet, to be eligible for a dog. However, most organizations that provide the training for dogs and veterans can provide the qualifications instantly. Read on to learn how to get a PTSD service dog for veterans.
This is the first step in getting a dog. The application process is used to determine if an applicant is physically, mentally, and financially prepared to care for a dog over its lifetime. Some nonprofit organizations cover the entire cost of training the dog. Others ask for a minimum of half the expenses, which can be as high as $40,000 for the entire process. Much of the cost covers training, feeding, and veterinary care. However, some of the cost is for travel and locating the right dog. Only a handful of dogs are capable and suitable to become service dogs.
Organizations that don’t require applicants to cover training costs have waiting lists. The time it takes to obtain a service animal will depend on the organization’s size and capabilities. Typically, a veteran is eligible for a dog if he or she can show capability of caring, has no felonies, and has a clear diagnosis from a health care professional. Records are requested as well, at the time of application.
There are some mental health conditions that may exclude a veteran from qualifying for a dog. But, these conditions typically require ongoing care from a psychiatric professional or psychologist and most people suffering from these conditions wouldn’t be able to properly care for or appreciate the companionship of a service dog.
When other qualifications are met, most nonprofit organizations offering dogs will conduct an in-home interview, to determine if the environment is safe and suitable for a dog. Many organizations have a limit on the number of existing pets in the home. The veteran applying for the dog must be able to show he or she is capable of physically caring for a dog on a regular basis.
In addition to eligibility requirements and a home visit, applicants will usually be required to attend training with the service dog. This may require travel to a training facility, where the applicant will spend several days with the dog. It may also require working with an individual trainer after the initial training. Some organizations will cover costs of traveling to training facilities, while others will require the applicant to cover all travel costs, which may include flights and hotel rooms.
There are ongoing costs to plan for, when considering a service dog for veterans with PTSD. Food, grooming supplies, and regular veterinary costs are the costs typically associated with owning any dog. A dog, like any other dog, may require emergency or non-routine veterinary care as well. Planning for such expenses can make owning a service dog a more enjoyable experience. Nobody can predict when or if a dog may require non-routine veterinary care in the future. The dog may also require a special diet, which can increase the costs of feeding.
Every organization that trains and offers service dogs for veterans has a slightly different process, protocol, and capacity. Therefore, it can take 2 to 6 months or longer, for a veteran who is approved to receive a fully trained service dog. There are several nonprofit organizations offering dogs for veterans.
Organizations For Vets
The best way to begin searching for an organization to provide a dog is to contact a local chapter of the Veteran’s Administration. The agency can refer the veteran to organizations in the area that train and match therapy dogs to veterans. To learn more about how to obtain service dogs for a veteran with PTSD, organizations offering service dogs typically provide information on their websites, including information on the application process.