This month at AGA we are celebrating our Pawtriotic love for the U.S.A by honoring all service men and women and all first responders! The number of veterans and first responders with traumatic emotional and physical injuries have increased in the Post 9/11 world. To that effect, science has offered much, but many would argue that a well adapted and placed service animal, does a great job of helping these folks we call heroes.

AN INCREASING NEEd

  • 5.5 million – the number of veterans who served during the Gulf War era (August 1990 to present)
  • 3.8 million – the number of veterans with a service-connected disability rating
  • 1.1 million – the number of veterans with a 70% or higher disability rating
  • 15% – the number of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experiencing PTS in a given year
  • 12% – the number of Gulf War veterans experiencing PTSD in a given year
  • 400 – the average number of application requests Patriot PAWS receives each month

*Source: United States Census Bureau, 2014 American Community Survey

Service dogs are specially trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a chronic disability who cannot perform independently. Service dogs can, for example, pick things up, help a person through a seizure or mental illness and sometimes just make their human feel safe. They can also remind a person to take prescribed medications and calm a person with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack. It is important to note that service animals are working animals, but for the US veterans and first responders, they are also often described as members of the family.

Veterans with substantial mobility limitation or with a mental health disorder for which a service dog has been identified could be the optimal way to address mobility impairment. These veterans and first responders are usually eligible for veterinary health benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative. A substantial mobility limitation indicates that most common life and work activities (i.e., leaving the house, or getting to medical appointments, using public transportation, etc.) are impaired or prevented for the person more than half the time.

Under the Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative, this benefit has been offered for Veterans with a mental health condition. It provides comprehensive coverage for the canine’s health and wellness and any prescription medications necessary to enable the dog to perform its duties in service to the Veteran.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) service dogs are a type of psychiatric service dog. Psychiatric service dogs are as legitimate as any other type of service dog, such as a mobility assistance dog, seizure alert dog, or “seeing eye” dog.

PTSD service dogs can be trained to perform any number of disability-mitigating tasks, including:

  • Retrieving medication
  • Turning on lights and waking up their handler if he or she is having a night terror
  • Searching the home to alleviate symptoms of hypervigilance
  • Guiding their handler home during a dissociative episode
  • Initiating tactile intervention when a handler experiences sensory overload
  • Grounding their handler during a flashback

Even though our canine companion does an amazing job as protectors and helpers of our hero, a lot of effort is going into service Mini Ponies and other animals as their life span greatly exceed that of the common Canine. 

Here are some of the reasons why Service Equines do well!

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) allows two types of animals to serve as Service Animals: dogs and miniature horses. Read on to learn more about mini horses as Service Animals! Miniature horses are small, sturdy horses ranging in size from 26″ to 38″ tall.

  • The horse has an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years and can live to be more than 50 years old. Since people and their service animals become so bonded, how wonderful to have each other for so long.
  • Better acceptance: Guide dog users report resistance in accessing public places where dogs are not permitted because their dog is perceived as a pet. Those who use miniature horses do not seem to have this problem since the animal is more easily recognizable as a service one.
  • Calm nature: Just think of cavalry and police horses in the midst of chaos – horses can be trained to remain very, very calm. 
  • Great memory: Horses have amazing memories. I know that’s a fact because of my childhood with horses, but the foundation add that horse will naturally remember a dangerous situation decades after it happened.
  • High stamina: Healthy horses are hearty and robust.

In Short, our Canine and equine friends have a big job to do when taking care of the American Heros. They must always be a friend, a companion, sometimes protector but most of all they have to be themselves. Inherently good to perform the tasks these heroes ask of them every day. To all service men and women and all their service pet American Grooming Academy salutes you and thanks you!

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