Charity calls on government to help fund training of PTSD service dogs for veterans
Published Saturday, November 10, 2018 1:17PM EST
After he served 28 years in the Canadian military, Stephane Marcotte found himself in a dark place. He was diagnosed with PTSD and he was having trouble even going outside.
“I was trapped in my house, in my basement,” he told CTV Vancouver. “Medication didn’t work anymore.”
It wasn’t until Marcotte met Sarge – a PTSD service dog – that his life began to change.
“He came into the room and he just sat right on my foot and he chose me,” he said. “That saved my life.”
Marcotte was able to connect with the Labrador retriever after he contacted a local group that trains psychiatric service dogs.
He’s one of the fortunate ones because the demand for service dogs for veterans has surpassed the supply, according to the charity Wounded Warriors Canada.
“We have a waiting list of approximately two years with most of our providers,” Phil Ralph, the national program director for Wounded Warriors Canada, said.
Training dogs to become PTSD service animals takes time and money, according to Ralph. A single dog can cost as much as $15,000 – which is funded entirely by donations.
The charity hopes the federal government will step in and commit to funding the training of more service dogs for veterans.
“In the end it would mean more dogs would get into the hands of veterans in need,” Ralph said.
Veterans Affairs Canada recently conducted a pilot study that examined how service dogs can help veterans with PTSD.
According to the results released this year, the study found that veterans with PTSD had decreased nightmares, improved sleep, improved quality of life, decreased symptoms of PTSD, and a slight increase in physical activity after they acquired a service dog.
It’s a finding Marcotte can personally attest to after he found Sarge.
“If I have a nightmare, he just wakes me up,” he said. “He calms me down. He gets me out of the house and we go play in the park.”
In a statement to CTV News, Veteran Affairs Canada said it was “looking into options” for funding PTSD service dogs. The ministry also said there is already an available tax credit for service dogs that can save military personnel up to $1,500.
The ministry said it intends to adopt national standards for the training of service dogs, but there is currently no timeline for that decision.
Marcotte said he hopes it will be soon so other veterans will find the same comfort he has with his dog.
“I can enjoy life,” he said. “That’s what the service dog gives you back.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber