How a canine can change a life

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Veterans Affairs Department

KODA, the first Psychiatric Assistance Dog trained and delivered by Dogs for Life in Victoria, is helping transform their veteran’s life.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Darren Chester said the government’s psychiatric service dog program has changed the lives of veterans across Australia, and training local psychiatric service dogs in Victoria is a huge asset to veterans and their families.

“We continue to receive positive feedback on how this program is changing lives and making a difference for our veterans dealing with PTSD by providing comfort and safety,” said Chester.

“Since the start in September 2019, 29 dogs have been placed with veterans, a further 109 are currently in training. We have received more than 270 applications from veterans to be part of the program and will continue to match dogs with their handlers as they become available. “

Dogs for Life works with specially trained dogs to help veterans meet their daily challenges. It is one of four contracted dog providers under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Psychiatric Assistance Dog program.

“You [Koda] draws my focus on them and relieves me of fear. It opened avenues for conversations that I believe I have never had before. It’s a life changing experience for me, ”said Koda’s experienced handler.

Mr Chester said the well-trained dogs like Koda provide companionship, support, and comfort, and perform duties to aid their handler’s clinical recovery.

“It’s heartwarming to hear this feedback from our veterans about the difference their dogs are making,” said Chester.

“This is just one of the ways we put veterans and their families first, and I look forward to seeing more eligible veterans match up with their dogs.”

DVA has also been working with La Trobe University and Dogs for Life since 2018 and has brought 16 veterans together with assistance dogs as part of a research experiment.

“The Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program has been in existence for 18 months, but we’ve been working with La Trobe University and Dogs for Life on this important study for a long time,” said Chester.

“The study helped inform how we set up our program and continues to ensure that we are properly focused.

“Dogs for Life gives us both practical and long-term insights into how valuable these dogs are to veterans with PTSD.”

To participate in the program, veterans must have a veteran gold or white card, have a current diagnosis of PTSD from a psychiatrist, and be treated with their psychologist for at least three months.

Veterans currently on PTSD treatment may want to speak to their psychologist to find out if a psychiatric assistance dog is a suitable addition to treatment.

/ Public release. This material is from the original organization and may be of a temporal nature and may be edited for clarity, style and length.