Dogs & PTSD

We provide canine’s to handler recipient by clinical referral. The training cost of these highly skilled dogs is $60,000 born by . Your support is critical.

Laura Dessauer, Ed.D., ATR-BC

Soldiers returning from combat and first responders exposed to hostile and traumatic experiences may find their lives turned upside down with little skills to manage the intrusive traumatic thoughts and nightmares. Many of these men and women will struggle with traditional therapeutic methods, leaving them at greater risk for divorce, substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide. Often these individuals feel a sense of disconnect. Unfortunately, there are stigmas for seeking therapy and medications may be perceived as an impediment to service. Telling someone who has served in combat or crisis management to take a deep breath may not be an effective strategy to manage PTSD, instead they need other tools to help them navigate the complex traumas they have experience.
National PTSD Service Association Inc. is a nonprofit agency providing highly skilled canines, service, support, training, and mentoring programs to post-911 armed forces veterans and public safety personnel suffering with PTSD.
National PTSD Service Association’s service dogs are specialty trained as tactical empathy dogs, able to read the feelings and the mindset of their handlers so they can help them navigate the daily obstacles that comes with PTSD. When the dog handlers experience flashbacks or triggers they are able to utilize the trained responses of their service dog to ground in the present moment, with the dogs intuitively anticipating and responding to their needs. When triggered these stealth canine companions act to help bring their handlers attention to the present moment. The dog creates an opportunity for mindfulness, grounding their handlers through engagement of the senses. Mindfulness techniques that might not resonate with a solider or first responder in a therapeutic setting, are more easily accessible through the symbiotic relationship of service dog and handler. This unique bond has transformed the lives of many participants allowing for more freedom and autonomy from the devastating impacts of trauma.

What is a service animal?

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work include:

  • guiding people who are blind
  • alerting people who are deaf
  • pulling a wheelchair
  • alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

Service animals, sometimes called performance companion animals, are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some state and local laws also define a service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the state attorney general’s office.

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

Under the ADA, a service animal must be allowed into the place of public accommodation or into the public entity. However, dogs that are either not working or not performing a task but are there simply to keep the person with a disability calm are not protected by these regulations; these animals are providing emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship rather than working or performing a task for the handler. That is, these animals are not engaged in what the U.S. Department of Justice would refer to as “recognition and response.” Further, the ADA is not the only law in play. For example, the Fair Housing Act and its regulations do allow for emotional support animals. Also, the various states will have different approaches for dealing with service animals. We provide canine’s to handler recipient by clinical referral. The training cost of these canines is $60,000 born by . Your support is critical.

Where to Get Help for PTSD

Are you are in crisis? You have options:

  • Call 911
  • Go to the nearest Emergency Room
  • Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 (text 838255) or Confidential Veterans
  • Chat with a counselor

We provide canine’s to handler recipient by clinical referral. The training cost of these canines is $60,000 born by . Your support is critical.

More information is available at PTSD Care for Everyone.