Assistance project welcomed
A RETURNED serviceman living in the Kiewa Valley has welcomed the news that Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester has announced a $2 million innovative trial of assistance dogs for veterans with scepticism.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs plans to partner with Latrobe University to undertake the trial of assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD as a supplement to clinical treatment, something Afghanistan veteran Joshua New said was a positive move.
“It’s good that they are putting money into project’s like this although it is similar to ones already out there, being run by various organisations,” Mr New said.
“Lucky came to me at the right time to help me deal with his PTSD, and help me take up family life again and re-enter society.”
The new trial will be a considered process that takes into account the specific needs of the participating veteran - such as determining the most appropriate breed and temperament of dog, and the bonding process between the dog and participant.
Mr New obtained his assistance dog Lucky in 2015 through Defence Community Dogs, which is supported by the Defence Bank.
Most of the dogs in the program are trained at the Bathurst Correctional Centre by inmates under the guidance of leading dog trainers.
Mr New himself showed his support for the initiative by organising a major fundraising and raising almost $48,000 to train hundreds more assistance dogs.
Mr New said he also hopes to see more done to teach the public about PTSD and how important assistance dogs are to their owners after a recent incident where Lucky was denied access in a taxi.
Even though Lucky was wearing his working vest and Mr New said he was carrying the right identification, it was an episode that has made him feel as though he can no longer use Lucky as an assistance dog.
“That experience brought on such a level of anxiety about having to justify having an assistance dog,” he said.
“I can no longer use him as an assistance dog because I feel that everyone is going to question me about my condition.
“The end result is I am having to have regular ECT treatments to maintain my equilibrium.
“Money needs to be spent supporting existing programs and on educating the public about the importance of assistance dogs and making sure that the rules applying to sight and hearing assistance dogs also apply to other assistance dogs.”
BEST FRIEND: Tawonga’s Joshua New with his beloved pet and assistance dog, Lucky.