Therapy Dogs and the Military
Animal-Assisted Therapy And Veterans
More than 1.7 million veterans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and increasingly more returning Army and Marine veterans have sought mental health care services since 2000. Of those veterans, between 11 and 17 percent are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The economic and societal costs of not successfully treating our nation's veterans are substantial and far-reaching. Consequences of PTSD can include unemployment, homelessness, poor physical health, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide. The March 2009 Rand Report estimates the cost of the societal effects of PTSD and major depression in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to be as much as $6.2 billion over just two years.
Preliminary research and anecdotal evidence indicate that animal-assisted therapy has a positive effect in treating people with mental health issues. Studies have already found that animal-assisted therapy is effective in reducing anxiety in patients with mood, psychotic and other disorders.
With reduced anxiety levels and their mental health needs effectively treated, veterans can more easily adjust to civilian life, find jobs and remain employed, and maintain their physical and mental health. Costs to the health care system, taxpayers and society at large will be lowered. And, importantly, we will be meeting our obligation to provide our nation's veterans with the support they need and so deserve.
Animal-Assisted Therapy and Children of Deployed Military Parents
Over two million children in the United States have had a parent deployed to active military duty since the start of the Global War on Terrorism. "When one person joins, the whole family serves" is a common saying among military personnel.
Historically, military families demonstrate resilience in dealing with the risks and stressors they face. However, in the current global conflicts, military families are experiencing longer deployments, multiple deployments, and shorter time in between deployments.
These compound stressors are affecting children of military families. Parental deployment is associated with physical, social, emotional and behavioral issues in children such as depression, isolation, and poor academic performance. Experts suggest that having a parent sent to an active combat zone with an undetermined return date may rank as one of the most stressful events in childhood.
American Humane Association's therapy dogs provide children of military families with the social support to help them cope with the stress they experience while their parent is deployed. By seeking interaction and serving as a calming presence, therapy dogs help children communicate about the fear, anger and uncertainty they're feeling. Children who work with a therapy dog experience a non-judging, unconditionally accepting being that is there for them while they wait for their parent's safe return.