Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program
The program provides psychiatric assistance dogs through DVA contracted providers. Each dog is specially trained to perform tasks that contribute to their handler’s clinical recovery goals. 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 the handler to distract them from emotionally disabling symptoms.
A veteran is eligible for the program if:
- the veteran has an accepted condition of PTSD
- the veteran is undergoing treatment by a mental health professional for PTSD and has been for at least three months
- the veteran has been assessed as suitable for the supply of a psychiatric assistance dog by a mental health professional
- the veteran is found suitable for the supply of a psychiatric assistance dog having regard to the factors in the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) National Guidelines relating to living arrangements, current life circumstances, support networks, and ability to properly care for the dog.
To apply and be considered for the program, a veteran should seek support from their mental health professional to access a psychiatric assistance dog as an adjunct to treatment for PTSD.
To determine eligibility and suitability, the mental health professional must be satisfied the veteran meets the required eligibility criteria, also detailed in the RAP National Guidelines and the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 Treatment Principles section 18.104.22.168.
DVA covers costs through the program including the training and supply of the psychiatric assistance dog.
Reimbursement can be requested by the veteran for the costs associated with maintaining the welfare of the dog. This includes:
- annual maintenance costs up to $565 per quarter — quarterly veterinary costs (including vaccinations and medication), pet insurance, and food
- unexpected vet bills and gap payments — in the event the psychiatric assistance dog has an unexpected vet bill, or the veteran is out of pocket due to the difference between the bill and the amount claimable from pet insurance, DVA will reimburse this amount.
The program cannot provide financial assistance or reimbursements for assistance dogs privately sourced outside of the DVA program.
For more information, please visit the DVA website.