Two pioneering BC Charities are joining forces to help meet the needs of Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
BC & Alberta Guide Dogs and Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs are in the process of amalgamating into a single agency, so they can provide more professionally trained Service Dogs for Armed Forces and RCMP veterans suffering from PTSD.
Since being founded in 2014, Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs has paired 26 dogs with both military and RCMP veterans on Vancouver Island. Each team undergoes a 52-week Service Dog training program and is eligible for certification under the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.
BC & Alberta Guide Dogs was founded in 1996 and breeds, raises and professionally trains Guide Dogs for blind/visually-impaired individuals and Autism Support Dogs for children aged 3-10 with profound autism. BC & Alberta Guide Dogs has been providing purpose-bred adult dogs and technical support to VICD since its inception.
The amalgamation between the two non-profits allows the PTSD program to double in size and expand to include veterans on the Lower Mainland. Over the next year the merged organization plans to train 12 PTSD teams on Vancouver Island and 12 on the Lower Mainland.
Patti, an RCMP veteran, and her service dog Tiaa, are the first Lower Mainland PTSD team to graduate. Mike Annan, Executive Director and co-founder of Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs, and Bill Thornton, CEO and co-founder of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, spoke about the need for more PTSD Dogs and the expansion of the program into the Lower Mainland.
“The need for PTSD Service Dogs is currently not being met,” says Mike Annan. “We have a long list of veterans and RCMP waiting to be helped through our program.”
“BC & Alberta Guide Dogs is thrilled to welcome Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs as part of our team,” says Bill Thornton. “We have been working closely as a team since their inception, so this amalgamation is a natural next step with added services for the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP veterans suffering from PTSD.”
Veteran Affairs Canada reports that at the end of last year, 14,645 veterans with a PTSD diagnosis received disability benefits – a 71.1 per cent increase over the last five years. The rate is even higher for RCMP veterans. In the same five-year period, there has been an 80.7 per cent increase in RCMP veterans diagnosed with PTSD who receive benefits.