Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan’s announcement of a new trial has been slammed by a military compensation lawyer.
Minister Tehan announced last week the government is working on a trial to evaluate the mental health benefits of assistance dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD.
The minister said the trial would enable the collection of evidence to inform future policy considerations to help the government continue meeting the mental health needs of veterans.
"Anyone who has had a dog knows they can be loyal friends and many veterans have told me that having a dog has been incredibly beneficial for their mental health," Minister Tehan said.
"The government now wants to investigate whether this benefit can be supported by evidence from a trial."
But Slater and Gordon lawyer Brian Briggs said the trial is a waste of time and resources.
Briggs said there were presently several organisations, including Young Diggers and Assistance Dogs Australia, which already run these programs effectively, making the trial a misallocation of money and wasting time for many veterans and ex-service personnel who needed assistance immediately.
"We already have reports that prove that dogs can assist veterans with PTSD to feel less irritable, become more patient, calmer, happier and can increase their emotional control," Briggs said.
"The government should be using this money to support and expand current initiatives that we already know work."
Under existing programs run by Young Diggers and Assistance Dogs Australia, dogs undergo a unique training placement where they are trained to work with a person’s specific needs, including detecting signals of anxiety.
Young Diggers runs The Dog Squad, which is aimed at helping defence families better cope with the effects of PTSD, while saving the lives of rescued dogs, and Assistance Dogs Australia places dogs with the people living with PTSD. These dogs are trained to provide a combination of physical task-oriented and emotional support to assist their owner and help them overcome fears.
Minister Tehan said the trial was being planned to guarantee the safety of the human and animal participants as well as the general public.
The government recently approved a grant to study the value of service dogs for veterans with mental health conditions under the new Supporting Younger Veterans Program.