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National Standards being set for service dogs assisting Canadian Forces Members and Veterans

Working to better serve Veterans living with mental health conditions

Canadian Forces member, Sgt. Shirley Jew and her PTSD Service Dog, Snoopy.

On June 1, 2015, the Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced that national standards will be set for service dogs which assist Veterans with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The announcement was made during a visit to the National Service Dogs House and Training Centre in Cambridge, Ontario, where Minister O’Toole met with Veterans’ groups and members of psychiatric service dog training organizations.

National standards will help to ensure consistency across the country for psychiatric service dogs. The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) will lead the development of the standards in consultation with Veterans’ groups and psychiatric service dog training providers.

During the visit, Minister O’Toole provided an update on the work being done to better serve Veterans and their families who are living with mental health conditions, including ground-breaking research into the effect of psychiatric service dogs on Veterans with PTSD.

The Minister also highlighted the extensive network of mental health clinics and service points to assist Veterans from coast to coast and the 24-hour hotline providing immediate psychiatric assistance for all Veterans and their families.

Quick Facts:

Psychiatric service dogs
• Psychiatric service dogs are trained to help a person with a mental health condition by performing tasks in response to a cue.
• A constant companion, these dogs can help their owner manage many common symptoms of PTSD, and guide them away from stressful situations. They can also provide physical support if their owner loses his or her balance.
• Up to $340,000 in funding has been approved to set national standards for service dogs.
• The pilot research, which will include up to 50 Canadian Veterans with service dogs, is being funded with $500,000 and is expected to be first class and ground-breaking. The research could help set standards of Veteran service dogs and their certification in allied countries.

Mental health supports
• Operational stress injury clinics provide full assessment, diagnosis and treatment services for Veterans and their families who are living with operational stress injuries, including PTSD.
• VAC and DND, together, have a network of 27 specialized mental health clinics where individuals can be served in person. Veterans and their families can receive immediate mental health counselling with a professional over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the toll-free assistance line.
• Veterans Affairs Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada are working together to develop a Veteran-specific Mental Health First Aid training program.

“We expect this work will confirm what Veterans have been telling us about the benefits of psychiatric service dogs—how these dogs have improved their quality of life. The Government of Canada is committed to supporting research to achieve better outcomes for Veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions.” – Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs

Associated Links:
Minister Fantino Announces Partnership to Explore the Use of Psychiatric Service Dogs to Help Veterans with PTSD
Fact Sheet – Service Dogs
Network of Occupational Stress Injury Clinics
Mental health services, support and information

The original news release about these standards can be found here.