A local not-for-profit service that employs veterans to train psychiatric assistance dogs for other veterans has placed its first dog in Canberra after last year joining a federal veterans program.
Labrador Belle has moved home with her handler Ben Jones, after the pair completed their intensive training program and passed the public access test. She's the first to graduate from Integra Service Dogs Australia as part of the federal government's Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.
Mr Jones thanked the veteran-founded service for helping manage his post-traumatic stress disorder.
"They have worked closely with me to match me with a highly suitable and intelligent Labrador and developed us as a bonded team," Mr Jones said.
The 18-month training Belle received at Integra helped give her insight into Mr Jones' condition and his unique triggers, allowing him to reclaim him place in the community and rebuild his life.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs Darren Chester welcomed Belle to the ranks of the assistance dogs who are helping change the lives of veterans and their families.
"The dogs provided through this program, like Belle, play an important role for veterans and their families living with PTSD as they are trained to the individual needs of their veteran and perform specific tasks to help them with their recovery and general wellbeing," Mr Chester said.
"These dogs have such a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of our veterans and it is so encouraging to hear the stories of success and of veterans overcoming challenges with their dogs by their sides.
"Thank you for your service, Ben. I wish you and Belle all the very best on your journey together."
Integra is currently training 38 assistance dogs for veterans across ACT and NSW.
Last year Integra joined three other providers, who have between them trained 21 assistance dogs for veterans across Australia under the federal program. An additional 89 dogs are still in training.
Veterans who have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder can access the assistance dogs program via dva.gov.au/dogs
- Open Arms veterans and families counselling - 1800 011 046
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