Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has launched a petition calling on the Federal Government to establish a trial of Veteran’s Assistance Dogs which are already helping save the lives of PTSD sufferers.
The Royal Society for the Blind’s Operation K9 has been placing fully trained assistance dogs with eligible veterans for many years and has been working in conjunction with Adelaide University Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies to collate data on the effectiveness of the PTSD assistance dogs it’s been able to place with veterans.
However, RSB is reliant upon a contribution from the RSL and philanthropy to fund the cost of the dogs. To date, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs refuses to fund assistance dogs on the basis they lack evidence of the beneficial outcomes.
Senator Kakoschke-Moore said waiting for overseas studies not due for release until 2018 is unacceptable and pointed to the overwhelming need to urgently tackle the high rate of suicide by veterans.
“The Senate Inquiry into suicide by veterans heard from veterans with assistance dogs that their dog had saved their lives,” Senator Kakoschke-Moore said.
“They reported being able to go out in public again, reducing the amount of medication they were on and improvements in their relationships with their families.
“No pill will do this. These results are undeniably because a specially trained dog has been able to help the veteran during times of extreme stress.”
Senator Kakoschke-Moore said evidence gathered through this trial will support the already overwhelming anecdotal evidence of the transformational effect of PTSD assistance dogs on veterans and their families.
“If the Federal Government is serious about finding ways to support our ex-service personnel then it should whole-heartedly support this trial,” Senator Kaksochke-Moore said. “The foundation is already there with the RSB and Adelaide University, all this trial needs is some funding."
“The RSB is able to place between 4 – 6 dogs with veterans each year for two years of a three year trial. Operation K9 has rigorous eligibility criteria and training methods for both the dogs and veterans – their program is the gold standard when it comes to assistance dogs.”
Operation K9 client, Trevor Shinnick, said of the program: “It has been a progression of good things to excellent things, we have been able to get out and do things that I never thought before I would be able to do, it is immeasurable. As a veteran this sort of occurrence should come earlier in the piece, particularly when you are struggling. Sophie is the best thing since I met my wife and partner Sue. Sophie and Sue – they are the best!”
Operation K9 client, Sam Hooper, said: “I find life is just easier all around with Wallace that there isn't anything that we can't do together. Most importantly in what Wallace has done for me is he has not only given my life back in that I feel I have the confidence to do new things or go to places now. Wallace has done the most important thing with my life - he saved it. How do I quantify in a few words just what Wallace is to me? Wallace is my mate, my best friend and saviour. Together with him at my side I don't feel like the world is such a terrible place.”
Operation K9 Client, Peter Checkley, said: “It saved my life, it saved my marriage. It changed our lives dramatically."
Acting Executive Director, Royal Society for the Blind, Darren Johnson said: “Although we have extensive experience training dogs for the blind and vision impaired community, working with the RSL on Operation K9 has opened our eyes to the positive effect a dog can also make in the life of a returned service man or woman with PTSD.”
The petition can be found here. It will be tabled in the Senate later this year. The Senate Inquiry report into suicide by veterans and defence personnel is due to report on August 15. Senator Kakoschke-Moore has previously asked questions of the DVA about assistance dogs which can be found here (page 10).
For more information: Karina Natt 0427 074 398