Service Dogs Help Veterans With PTSD Reintegrate Into Society and Help Prisoners Become Productive People While They’re at it

I know it's not necessary to convince most readers of this blog that pets are good for us. My pal Buster is no service dog,...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 7th 2010


I know it’s not necessary to convince most readers of this blog that pets are good for us. My pal Buster is no service dog, but the thought of the enthusiastic greeting I will receive from him when I get home helps me get through tough days at work. He also forces me to get out of the house and helps ensure that I get daily exercise — Buster needs his walks!

An ever growing body of scientific evidence now supports the notion that pets are beneficial for humans in a multitude of psychological and physical ways. Read the humanhealth thread on this blog to learn all about it.

Service animals, of course, are in a league of their own. A great deal of intense training (and a lot of money) goes into creating a service animal. The process obviously benefits the people who receive service animals. It is not as well known that the people training the animals also benefit.

A recent article in the New York Times (free registration required to view) discusses the use of service dogs to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder lead better lives. Here is a representative quote from the article.

In dozens of interviews, veterans and their therapists reported drastic reductions in P.T.S.D. symptoms and in reliance on medication after receiving a service dog.

That, of course, is excellent. The article goes on to touch upon a program that provides some of the service dogs. It is called Puppies Behind Bars. The program utilizes prisoners to train the dogs. The article doesn’t dwell on this program in detail, but I have read articles about similar programs in the past. It turns out that training service dogs often helps prisoners develop interpersonal skills and a sense of responsibility. In short, these programs can help prisoners learn how to become productive members of society. Everybody’s a winner–including the taxpayers and honest citizens who benefit from having fewer habitual criminals in society.