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Assistance dogs

There is a clear evidence base for the effectiveness of assistance dogs for people with sensory impairments such as hearing loss, loss of sight or mobility impairments. The provision of guide, mobility and hearing dogs through the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) is limited to veterans who have a DVA Health card and have a medically assessed need for the dog due to a war-caused injury/accepted condition.

The Department also provides psychiatric assistance dogs to eligible veterans as an adjunct to the treatment and management of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychiatric assistance dogs are provided to eligible veterans under the RAP.

Psychiatric assistance dogs are specially trained to perform tasks that contribute to the clinical recovery goals of their handler. This could include detecting signs of distress in their handler and performing specific tasks to help alleviate those symptoms. For example, waking a veteran experiencing a night terror, or nuzzling their handler to distract them from emotionally disabling symptoms.

There is emerging evidence supporting the use of psychiatric assistance dogs in addition to treatment for PTSD; for example, the outcome of the trial conducted by Veterans Affairs Canada announced in October 2018.

DVA does not provide companion or emotional support dogs. A psychiatric assistance dog must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the veteran’s disability, while a companion or emotional support dog simply provides comfort and coping assistance to an individual.

It is important to note that training programs can take time (sometimes up to 12-18 months), and due to the time required to breed and train an assistance dog there may be a waitlist for an appropriately matched dog.

For information on eligibility and how to apply see the Factsheet — HSV148 — Psychiatric Assistance Dogs

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