The trial of assistance dogs supporting veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Victoria is showing “positive signs during the initial phases”, according to Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester.
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Minister Chester met with La Trobe University and the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia (CSTDA) to discuss the progress of the $2 million trial funded by the Australian government, to check in on how the fostered dogs and veterans are finding the experience.
"The first group of dogs have been living with their foster families for the past three months, and are undertaking weekly training over a 12-month period," Minister Chester said.
"Participating veterans are also undergoing training on how to become handlers of psychiatric assistance dogs over that time.
"I'm pleased to see the trial is progressing well, and am confident that this approach to supporting veterans with PTSD will make a meaningful difference to their lives. This is the first time the federal government has provided financial backing to a trial of this nature and something that I am proud to support.
"Supporting this trial is just one step this government is taking to put veterans and their families first, and more than $230 million a year is being invested in supporting the mental health of veterans."
Professor Pauleen Bennett from La Trobe University also confirmed it is now seeking veterans to take part in the second cohort of the assistance dog trial.
"A new group of puppies will soon join the second cohort of the trial, and therefore we are seeking veterans living in the Melbourne area who are being treated for the management of clinically diagnosed PTSD to take part in this next phase," Professor Bennett said.
"The trial is a comprehensive process that takes into account the specific needs of the participating veteran – such as determining the most appropriate breed and temperament of dog to support the veteran's mental health needs, and the bonding process between the dog and participant.
"We expect these dogs will improve the veterans' sleep quality, as well as confidence to socialise with others in their community and engage in everyday life."