KODA, the first psychiatric assistance dog trained and delivered by Dogs for Life in Victoria, is helping turn her veteran’s life around.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the Government’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program was changing the lives of veterans across Australia and having locally trained psychiatric assistance dogs in Victoria was a big win for veterans and their families.
“We continue to receive positive feedback on how this program is changing lives and making a difference for our veterans managing PTSD by providing comfort and reassurance,” Mr Chester said.
“Since its launch in September 2019, the program has seen 29 dogs placed with veterans, with another 109 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 soon as they become available.”
Working with specially trained dogs to assist veterans meet their daily challenges, Dogs for Life is one of the four contracted dog providers under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.
“She [Koda] draws my focus to her, relieving me of anxiety. She has opened up pathways to conversations I feel I’ve never had before. It’s quite a life-changing experience for me,” Koda’s veteran handler said.
Mr Chester said the highly trained dogs like Koda offer companionship, support and comfort, performing tasks to support their handler’s clinical recovery.
“It’s heart-warming to hear this feedback from our veterans about the difference their dogs are making,” Mr Chester said.
“This is just one of the ways we are putting veterans and their families first, and I look forward to seeing more eligible veterans matched with their dogs.”
DVA has also partnered with La Trobe University and Dogs for Life since 2018, matching 16 veterans with assistance dogs through a research trial.
“The Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program has been in place for 18 months, but we have been working with La Trobe University and Dogs for Life for longer on this important trial,” Mr Chester said.
“The trial helped inform how we set up our program, and it continues to ensure we have our focus right.
“Dogs for Life is giving us both practical and long-term insights into how valuable these dogs are to veterans with PTSD.”
To be eligible for the program, veterans must have a Veteran Gold or White Card, have a current diagnosis of PTSD from a psychiatrist and be engaged in treatment with their mental health professional for a minimum of three months.
Veterans currently accessing treatment for PTSD may wish to speak to their mental health professional to see if a psychiatric assistance dog would be a suitable adjunct to treatment. For more information about DVA’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program visit the DVA website.
Koda with her veteran handler during a training session
Through times of war and peace, there are many stories like Koda. The Australian War Animals Memorial Organisation (AWAMO) preserves the memory and story of war animals through the establishment of world-class memorials and education programs. AWAMO also directly supports retired Service dogs and other projects helping veterans or animals. Show your support by purchasing from our Purple Poppy Collection. Your purchase go to supporting the beautiful work of AWAMO.
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