Veterans Affairs greenlights plan to develop standards for service dogs
Published Saturday, May 30, 2015 10:06PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 30, 2015 10:23PM EDT
The Ministry of Veterans Affairs has earmarked new funding to develop national standards for the training of service dogs, sources tell CTV News.
The new standards will set out specific training requirements for service dogs who are assigned to war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Service dogs are in high demand for mentally and physically injured veterans. In particular, there is growing demand for service dogs to help ex-soldiers cope with PTSD.
"If you get upset or agitated in public, they'll jump on you, they lick your hand," Sgt. Claudia Proctor, a Canadian Forces veteran, told CTV News.
"If you have a nightmare, same thing. They'll wake you up right out of that sleep," she added.
Royal Canadian Legion officials have been calling for a national training standard for dogs for some time. The organization said it was concerned about the risks posed by dogs who have received inadequate training.
"There are people are out there who claim they have a trained certified service dog, yet the dog is lunging, trying to go after (other) dogs," said Proctor.
In response, the ministry has put forward $500,000 to fund the Psychiatric Service Dog Pilot Project, which will match up to 50 Canadian veterans with assistance animals. The two-year process will also see national standards established by the Canadian General Standards Board.
"The effect these dogs have on wounded warriors can be life changing and positive, and we need to ensure the best training and standards are in place so we can establish a world-class program in Canada," said Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole in a statement on Saturday.
George Leonard, a spokesman for Courage Companions, said that national standards for service dogs are vital to ensure former Canadian Forces members receive adequate care.
"Any professional service dog needs to have a standard," Leonard said. He added that poorly trained service dogs can put veterans and members of the public at risk.
Ottawa has yet to reveal how these proposed standards will be enforced, but advocates say the standards are long overdue and could also help ease restrictions on where veterans are allowed to bring their service dogs.
There have been numerous cases of assistance dogs not being permitted on airline flights or in public places. In a prominent incident last year, Afghan war veteran Shirley Jew was told her service dog, which she has for her PTSD, was not allowed on an Air Canada flight.
"Airlines, restaurants, pubs, communities … once there is a Canadian nationalized-standardization tag on the vest of the dog, they'll be comfortable and (trustworthy)," said Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada.
O'Toole will announce more details about the plan on Monday.
Former Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino greenlit the proposal in one of his final moves last January.
With files from CTV News Parliamentary Correspondent Richard Madan