Helping Those Who Keep Us Safe

Ike Weaver and Nitro and Daniel BelcherThe statistics are sobering. According to a recent five-year study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office (2012), approximately 1 in 4 recent combat veterans who received treatment through the Veterans’ Administration was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). As the conflicts continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, these numbers are likely to rise, driving increased need for PTS service dogs to support the trauma recovery of our nation’s heroes.

One of my favorite parts of my job is helping administer American Humane Association’s grant program, Wags4Patriots, which awards grants to military veterans to help offset the training and adoption costs for PTS service dogs. Thanks to the generosity of sponsors such as NCR Foundation and Kal Kan, American Humane Association awarded four new grants to military veterans. Here’s what two of them had to say:

Nitro helps and comforts me when I get angry or upset at people and the world around me. He is always there for me when I need somebody and never lets me down. When I go somewhere he is always right there with me to help. I can talk with him and it seems that he always understands me and if I am sick, he can always tell that I am sick. He also gives me that sense of security and acts as a safety device by stabilizing me when I am walking. – U.S. Army Sergeant

I can’t thank you enough for the grant award. The amount of help Denali is already providing me is immeasurable. Your assistance on the financial end is a relief and so greatly appreciated. This whole process has given me renewed hope and resolve. I can’t thank everyone enough. – U.S. Marine

Because of the overwhelming mental health needs of returning military veterans, there is a huge demand for PTS service dogs. While many well-meaning dog trainers aim to help, it is a complex process to train and match a PTS service dog with a veteran. American Humane Association works to partner with accredited service dog agencies that not only humanely train the PTS service dogs, but also have professional mental health staff that work with the veteran to ensure s/he is emotionally and financially able to care for an animal. This ensures the well-being and safety of both the dog and the veteran.

While the Veterans Administration does contribute to select veterinary and equipment costs for service dogs trained to assist with physical disabilities, they do not now fund the provision of service dogs to these individuals or to those with mental health conditions like PTS.

We hope to change this reality by continuing to advocate for and provide financial assistance to military veterans to support the often high costs of adoption, training, and quality care for certified PTS service dogs. American Humane Association is also in the design stage of conducting a rigorous, nationwide research study to measure the efficacy of service dogs for veterans with PTS. The ultimate goal of our Wags4Patriots program and our research is to increase the accessibility of PTS service dogs to veterans in need.

To help give a much-needed service dog to a veteran suffering from the hidden wounds of war, please go to www.americanhumane.org/donate or call 866-242-1877. On behalf of our fighting men and women, thank you!

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