Millions of veterans who have served our country over the years have returned home haunted by the demons of war. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects nearly 31 percent of Vietnam War veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of Iraq War veterans.
New York-based America's VetDogs® was founded in 2003 to provide guide, hearing, service and facility dogs at no cost to veterans and first responders with disabilities from all eras. This includes its PTSD Service Dog program, which pairs specially bred and trained service dogs with veterans whose primary diagnosed disability is post-traumatic stress. Many of these service dogs receive training through America's VetDogs® puppy prison program, which utilizes inmates who are veterans themselves to help raise puppies for this program.
The rehabilitative care offered by the PTSD Service Dog program is critically important, especially since the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides service dog benefits to veterans with visual, hearing or substantial mobility impairments, excludes reimbursement to veterans whose injuries are psychological in nature.
To ensure veterans with PTSD have access to the same benefits as other war heroes, America's VetDogs® partnered in 2014 with the Department of Public Health at Western Kentucky University to complete an impartial three-year research-based study to measure the impact of PTSD service dogs. The goal is to provide government agencies and the public empirical evidence supporting the health and healing benefits that service dogs can confer to veterans living with PTSD.
"America's VetDogs® is one of the first assistance dog programs in the U.S. to be accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International," said Wells Jones, chief executive officer. "Our partnership with Western Kentucky University furthers our credibility and will help ensure that our service dogs make a measurable difference in helping our country's veterans to live with pride and self-reliance once again."