Paws with Cause: The Importance of Emotional Support Animals for Veterans

According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, emotional support animals (ESAs) can offer valuable therapeutic benefits to some people who may suffer from either emotional illnesses or disabilities. With as many as one in five veterans being diagnosed with an emotional illness like depression, PTSD, or anxiety, emotional support animals could potentially serve a valuable place in the lives of many vets. In celebration of Veteran's Day, let's take a look at just how important ESAs can be for vets.

How Animals Can Offer Excellent Support for Veterans

ESAs can be an essential part of helping a veteran feel more comfortable and at ease in their day-to-day life. When veterans make it back into their ordinary lives, they may have both physical and emotional wounds. PTSD and other emotional issues are highly prevalent among veterans. While therapy and other formal treatment are always encouraged, a companion animal may deliver something bigger and perhaps just as effective.

A study performed by Purdue University in 2018 found that ESAs helped vets by:

  • Improving their overall quality of life

  • Easing some of the PTSD symptoms

  • Increasing the likelihood of social activities

While PTSD may not be the only issue vets face, a support animal could prove just as beneficial for many other issues. These dogs can be registered as an ESA if they meet certain criteria, such as being perceptive to commands and generally well-behaved. Of course, a doctor must make a recommendation for the vet to have a support animal.

National Programs That Help Vets Find Service Animals

Several programs are available and open to vets who may feel they could benefit from having either a support or service animal. Keep in mind that a service animal is typically a dog and is usually trained to provide a certain service, while an ESA is primarily for emotional support and may be a cat, dog, or another type of animal. Here are a few resources to keep in mind if you are looking for a service animal for yourself as a vet or a loved one who is a vet.

  • Pets for Patriots - Pets for Patriots focuses on helping vets get matched with an emotional support animal that may help by working with shelters and other organizations.

  • Assistance Dogs International - Assistance Dogs International helps vets and others with a need for a service animal find responsible providers of service animals.

  • Pups4Patriots - Pups4Patriots is overseen by the American Humane Society and helps vets find shelter pets that may be trainable to act as a service animal or ESA.

  • Pets for Vets - Pets for Vets matches vets with shelter dogs who may be registered as emotional support animals.

When a patriot comes home from serving our country, they deserve all of our love and respect, and sometimes, they need a little support beyond what we can offer. Emotional support animals may just be the big-hearted link that makes a huge difference in the life of a vet who has wounds hidden below the surface.

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