Tax break for vets’ service dogs
‘He lowers my anxiety’
OTTAWA — Heads turn and smiles break out as the four veterans make their way through the Bayshore mall in Ottawa’s west end. But it isn’t just the men that the shoppers are watching: it’s also their dogs.
A little-noticed promise in the most recent federal budget has sparked applause and sighs of relief from veterans across Canada dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychological trauma.
The commitment was to add “psychiatric service dogs” to the list of medical items that Canadians can claim as a tax credit, as is already the case with guide dogs for the blind.
“He lowers my anxiety. He gets me out of the house,” says Dwayne Sawyer of his service dog, a golden Labrador named Rex who has been helping the 22-year veteran with his PTSD.
In May 2014, then-veterans affairs minister Julian Fantino pledged up to $500,000 for a study to assess the benefits and risks of such dogs. A preliminary report was recently published.
The findings: Service dogs were found to have “some positive effects” on vets’ ability to sleep as well as to manage their PTSD and depression.
The Trudeau government promised in last month’s budget to expand the medical expense tax credit to include psychiatric service dogs.
A veteran and his service dog take part in a Veterans Service Dog training session at a mall in Ottawa.