Military DogsTherapy Dogs

PTSD Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

Every since we wrote the article, “Orders at Fort Bliss Force Removal of PTSD Dogs,” we have been receiving emails from veterans and those in related medical fields requesting help to find Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)  dogs or PTSD dogs for them. A difficult endeavor at best, we are finding out.  PTSD dogs for veterans with PTSD or TBI are hard to find because of the military itself. According to the USNews two days ago, the VA will not cover the costs of service dogs assigned for PTSD treatments … leaving PTSD veterans in desperate trouble.

PTSD dogs
Credit: Istockphoto / Radekk

“The Department of Veterans Affairs will cover the costs of service dogs to help veterans with impaired vision, hearing or mobility, but will not cover canines assigned for mental disabilities, according to regulations published on Wednesday in the Federal Register

. VA has not yet been able to determine that these dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness,” the department said. “Until such a determination can be made, VA cannot justify providing benefits for mental health service dogs.”

PTSD dogs are trained for a specific task for the PTSD veteran

Family members, veterans with PTSD, and medical staff are the primary people who need PTSD dogs for veterans with PTSD.  Service PTSD dogs for veterans are trained to do a specific task, depending on their training and their purpose.

For example, PTSD veterans who suffer mental disabilities are trained to alert the veterans from panic attacks or wake them when they enter nightmares. They can also be trained to remind veterans with PTSD to take their medicine.

New policies implemented for PTSD dogs and PTSD soldiers

Also, a new Army policy was implemented last year that makes it difficult for soldiers with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to have specialized psychiatric service PTSD dogs on military posts.  This happened after a six-year-old boy in Kentucky was fatally mauled by a German Shepherd that was being trained to help a soldier with PTSD at Fort Campbell. Up until this time, PTSD dogs were allowed on Army posts under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

USA Today reported that Matt Kuntz, executive director of the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, had launched an online petition last month calling on Army Secretary John McHugh to revise the new ruling.  “In our point of view, the need for basic regulation turned into a mountain of red tape,” Kuntz said.

Training a service dog for veterans with PTSD is approximately $20,000, according to Behesha Doan, president of This Able Veteran. This counts the dog’s travel expenses, equipment and vet bills —- with a lot of the funding coming from private donations.

According to US News, “stories like Zaragoza’s prompted members of Congress to push for the VA to provide more canine assistance to veterans, and recommended more research to explore how dogs might best help veterans suffering two of the most common mental disabilities from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan — PTSD and TBI.” But all research was suspended from January to June because of a little girl  being bitten by PTSD dog.

service and ptsd dogs

Corey Hudson, President of the North American chapter of Assistance Dogs International, a coalition of not for profit organizations that train and place canines worldwide, said that PTSD trained service dogs are a tough situation, as PTSD and TBI are mental illnesses that range from being manageable to extremely severe.  “You have to be careful what you’re getting into, and make sure you are qualified to train a dog for that situation,” he said.

To tighten up the qualifications and rules for properly trained service dogs, USA Today reports that the dogs must be provided by groups approved by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). ADI does not have chapters in 18 states, making the process of acquiring one in those states more difficult.

The new policy also requires service members to get approval of a care plan from their commander. “Our policy is supportive of the use of service animals in treating physical disabilities as well as PTSD,” said Maria Tolleson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM).


Organizations helping veterans to receive service dogs:

Paws and Stripes 

This Facebook organization, Paws and Stripes is working to provide vets with PTSD  dogs for therapeutic purposes.

K9s for Warriors

K9s For Warriors is dedicated to provide service canines to our warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of conflicts and war after 9/11.

Soldiers Best Friend

To provide United States military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with a trained PTSD Dogs or Therapeutic Companion Dog, most of these dogs will be rescued from local shelters.

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    September 12, 2017 at 10:54 am — Reply

    I’m a retired and disabled veteran with a multitude of medical issues that require me to need assistance with mobility, stability, weight bearing, and anxiety, just to name a few. I was supposed to have been accepted into a program that allows the training of a dog I purchase to be trained by/with me to be my service dog. The organization was started by a fallen US Marine’s family as a way to assist veterans by deferring the costs of training, veterinarian visits, initial supplies, etc. Unfortunately, due to my relocation to another state (Northern VA), I’ve since had great difficulty finding another program in my location that offers the same or similar options. Can someone help me, please?!?

    • September 18, 2017 at 5:17 am — Reply

      Kisha, can you tell me where you have searched so far? I have noticed that there is a program that is pulling dogs out of shelters, qualified dogs with the ability to train for this sort of thing, and training them for PTSD and associated therapy dogs. Animal Planet did a special on it not too long ago. Has any local shelters information on this for you? Meanwhile, I will check through Animal Planet for you. That may defray the cost for the dog for you, especially if you are willing to help in the training.

  2. November 8, 2013 at 10:46 am — Reply

    “PTSD Dogs for Veterans with PTSD | Way Cool Dogs!” was actually engaging and helpful!
    In the present day universe that’s difficult to carry out.
    With thanks, Lila

  3. September 17, 2012 at 10:01 am — Reply

    This is an outstanding article.
    We will quote from it and link it to Way Cool Dogs on our next (Sept) Barking Planet blog;
    Robert MCCarty

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:11 am — Reply

      Thank you for the link, Robert. And I will make the ad changes this coming week-end for you.

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