Service Dogs - Essay by Illinois1548 - Anti Essays

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"There is no randomized controlled trial whatsoever involving service dogs and mental health conditions," notes Dr. Michael Fallon, VA's chief veterinarian.

It might seem like a no-brainer that service dogs can help people with PTSD, depression, or other mental conditions. Who wouldn't benefit from having a four-legged friend at his side? The idea is hugely popular, admits Fallon. "The public, by and large, is in love with the concept of service dogs."

To date, there is ample evidence on the benefits of service dogs for people with physical disabilities, but very little in the area of mental health.

For this article I will focus on service dogs but there are many joys of owning various four legged friends.

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"If the Veteran is randomly selected to receive a service dog, he or she travels to the vendor, and the vendor take several dogs and finds out which one will work best for that Veteran. It's based on an interview process prior to the pairing."

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Congress has felt the need to create laws regarding service dogs

"We hope that eventually some of the specific [service dog] tasks won't be required quite as much. What we usually do in terms of PTSD treatment is exposure-based therapy, where we essentially extinguish the false fear response, so that over time, they won't be as hyper-vigilant. They won't need the sweeping, the checking, the blocking, someone watching their back all the time."

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The theory, she says, is that the dogs "can serve as a bridge to get them past that initial fear. That way, they can get out more and engage in therapy so they can eventually free themselves of that excessive fear response."


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There's another difference, and it's central to the study: The service dogs will be trained to respond to five specific commands chosen especially for the PTSD population.

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Veterans receiving emotional support dogs will have the animal delivered to their home. "They will work with the local VA dog trainer to learn how to look after the dog," says Saunders. Those receiving a service dog will travel to one of three vendors working with the study and spend up to two weeks on-site for training with their animal. One site is in California, another in Alabama, and a third in North Carolina.

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Comparing the two types of dogs adds scientific rigor to the study, says Dorn. If the service dogs do indeed improve outcomes, how much of that can be attributed to the general benefits of canine companionship, and how much to the specific trained tasks? If it's simply the love and support of a dog that account for Veterans' progress, then emotional support dogs should be just as effective, in theory.

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Tillman is an integral part of VA's study on service dogs and PTSD. A program manager and VA's national dog trainer, he visits the three vendors participating in the study to evaluate and approve each dog, whether service dog or emotional support dog.

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The difference has legal ramifications. Service dogs are allowed in most public places—including VA hospitals and clinics—but emotional support dogs are not.