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Pilot Study on the Use of Psychiatric Service Dogs for PTSD

Feb 12, 2016

A new pilot study through CIRRIS (Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration) and Université Laval is getting under way to evaluate the use of psychiatric service dogs as a safe and effective treatment for PTSD. As part of the study, CIRRIS is recruiting Canadian Veterans with PTSD who do not have a dog and are willing to acquire a service dog for their PTSD from a participating training school. The Royal Canadian Legion understands the benefits of animal assisted therapy and has long supported these types of programs both nationally and through Legion Branches. We are pleased to pass along information on this opportunity to our Veteran community.

The pilot study will focus on determining how psychiatric service dogs may assist Veterans with PTSD. The study will follow two groups of Veterans. The first group will include up to 30 Veterans who will be paired with a service dog and monitored for approximately 18 months. The second group will involve interviewing a group of Veterans who have had their psychiatric service dog between two and four years.

To be eligible for consideration for the first study group, Veterans must meet all of the following criteria designed by the Laval research team:

  • Have a VAC disability award for PTSD;
  • Be between 20 and 65 years of age;
  • Have clinically significant symptoms of PTSD;
  • Have a letter of authorization from a treating mental health professional to participate in the study;
  • Like dogs and have a desire to use a dog as a coping strategy, e.g., to calm the Veteran and go into public places without fear;
  • Be willing to participate for the 18 months of the pilot study; and
  • Be willing to accept the service dog that the training school chooses for the Veteran.

The project has been approved by Veterans Affairs Canada and as well by the CIRRIS ethics committee. It is important to note that psychiatric service dogs are provided by service dog organizations. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) does not pay for, nor provide service dogs to Veterans. After the pilot study is completed, VAC will review the findings of the study and determine the next steps.

Recruitment for the first study groups is now open. See the attached poster for details. Please contact CIRRIS directly for additional information.

Research Project Recruitment