Recent crises call for more trained PTSD dogs

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Tamara Wrigley pictured with PTSD Dogs Australia co-founder and veteran Roger Weeks, and PTSD dog, Rosie

TV presenter and PTSD Dogs Australia Ambassador Tamara Wrigley is calling for funding and a new property for the non-profit, which trains displaced and unwanted dogs to support and assist veterans (both working and medically-discharged) and first responders—fire, police and ambulance.

PTSD affects as many as one in four people who experience traumatic events, and these figures are set to increase over the coming months, due to the double whammy of Australia’s unprecedented bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition, it is estimated that approximately 8.3 per cent of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members have experienced PTSD in the last 12 months, which is significantly higher than in the Australian community (5.2 per cent). In particular, ADF males report a greater rate of PTSD compared with the general community (8.1 per cernt versus 4.6 per cent).

Research shows assistance dogs are an extremely effective intervention for veterans with PTSD, with all studies showing they confer a range of benefits on functioning and mental health.

To date, more than 20 dogs have been through the program since the charity launched in 2018, but with mental health issues so prevalent among veterans and first responders—including those caught up in the recent fires and COVID-19, there is an urgent need for more dogs and more foster parents, especially as waitlists for similar charities can be several years long.

 “PTSD Dogs Australia has been inundated with requests recently from all over Australia, including those affected by the fires and COVID-19,” Wrigley said. 

“It takes at least 18 months and costs around $40,000 to train an assistance dog, and we need a larger property now so we can get these dogs in and start training them so they will be ready for the avalanche of screams for help, because they’re coming.”

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