Tag Archives: animal-assisted

Service Dog Netherlands starts pilot with assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD

41699710432100The Veteran’s Service Dog is an alert dog that is specially trained for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a mental disorder that veterans may suffer as they are deployed to war zones.

The specially trained dogs help veterans to cope with stress caused by traumatic experiences in war zones. The dogs recognize the first symptoms of a nightmare and give a warning and also help to avoid stressful situations and are able to calm their “boss” and feel safe. This allows veterans with PTSD recover faster from their trauma and resume their normal lives.

For the pilot, the project team are looking for Veterans with PTSD who wish to qualify for a Veteran’s Service Dog to improve their general life welfare.

The following tasks can be a service dog to perform:

  • Wake and / or create light during a reliving of a nightmare
  • Accompany on the street
  • View a room occupants
  • Find the way home when disorientated
  • Provide distraction from worrying and depression
  • Help relax by his presence
  • Anger and anxiety indicated by contact with nose, head on your lap or jump
  • Move away from a situation where you feel unsafe
  • Keep personal zone free by standing between you and other people

Other specific tasks can also be negotiated as part of the project.

Selection of participants will be undertaken by a psychologist and instructors collaborating on the pilot. Successful applicants will then be put on a waiting list.

The pilot will study fourteen veterans with PTSD – seven of which will work with a dog and seven will take part in the research without a dog for comparison.


The Veterans Dog project is a collaboration of Service Dogs Netherlands, The Veterans House, Royal PIT Pro Rege and Dr. A. Wiersema-Ouwehand. The partners are committed to promote the advantages of having a veteran dog with war veterans and raise awareness of the Veterans Dogs among a larger group of people in the Netherlands to raise funds for the training of the dogs.

For more information please visit the website http://www.hulphond.nl/pagina/veteranenhonden

Animal-Assisted Interventions – Code of Practice (UK)

SCAS are delighted to announce the publication of the first Animal-assisted Interventions Code of Practice for the UK.

AAI Code of Practice - SCAS - 2013As public awareness of the benefits of animal-assisted interventions increases and more providers are looking to set up programmes, there is an ever growing need to ensure a consistent, responsible and safe approach to these interventions.

With the help of our valued members, SCAS has produced a code of practice for the field of animal-assisted interventions in the UK and this has been reviewed and contributed to by many key organisations, including:

  • APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors)
  • BVA (British Veterinary Association)
  • BSAVA (British Small Animal Veterinary Association)
  • CAWC (Companion Animal Welfare Council)
  • Dogs for the Disabled
  • Pets As Therapy
  • PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals)
  • RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
  • Riding for the Disabled Association
  • The Cat’s Protection League
  • The Dog’s Trust
  • The Donkey Sanctuary
  • Therapet

Working with a dedicated steering group drawn from our membership, many of whom are active in the field, discussions have been underway since July 2010 and has required a great deal of commitment and consideration from all involved.  Having completed the first draft, the Code of Practice was submitted for consultation to organisations from the animal welfare and healthcare sectors as well as dedicated AAI providers and SCAS members*.

Aimed at providers, the Code of Practice is intended to offer guidance on best practice for  delivering AAI effectively and safely. It offers a unified, structured approach for providers in the UK, helping to ensure that both people and animals benefit from their involvement in AAI.

With special thanks to all those involved in the development of the Code of Practice, without whose generous contributions, its publication would not have been possible.

Download the AAI Code of Practice (UK)

*A full list of the organisations who were invited to comment as part of the consultation is available upon request.

“Me and My Dog” – Radio 4 – A programme about young people and dogs

Yesterday our Chair, Elizabeth Ormerod, spoke on the Radio 4 programme “Me and My Dog”.  The programme looked at the relationship between young people and dog and Liz spoke specifically  about the benefits of animals for children and also about how dogs can have a very effective and mutually beneficial relationship with young offenders and prisoners.

Listen now (available until 7th April 2013)

Dog fighting and so-called ‘status’dogs for protection has increased the popularity of ‘bull-type’ breeds such as Staffordshire bull terriers, and their crosses, on urban housing estates. Nearly half the dogs rescued by Battersea Dogs Home are ‘staffies’ and can be more difficult to re-home.

Presenter Mike Embley discovers how an unlikely alliance between teenage offenders and unwanted or abused dogs can give them both a second chance.

In Britain, a number of initiatives are following the lead of American schemes like Project Pooch, which has proved successful in preventing re-offending and teaching teenage offenders to take responsibility for their behaviour – while also helping the better-trained dogs find new homes.

Mike meets animal organisations leading the way, like The Dogs Trust which works with young offenders who have been sentenced to community service. The charity is also about to start another programme inside Feltham Young Offender Institution, while a similar scheme is already underway in Polmont Prison in Scotland.

He also speaks to Scottish veterinarian Elizabeth Ormerod, chair of the Society for Companion Animal Studies, who believes such programmes give offenders hope for the future when they see dogs they have trained being re-homed as ‘model doggy citizens’. She believes interaction with dogs not only helps them understand animal behaviour but their own behaviour and the actions of others.

Producer: Sara Parker
A White Pebble production for BBC Radio 4.


White Gold project and Gill Pearce – Working with animals to help people

Gill Pearce was a veterinary nurse for nearly 40 years before she retrained as a therapeutic counsellor. She now works with her dog Megan (pictured below), helping to reduce offending behaviour in young people.

SIX years ago Gill made a career change from veterinary nursing to train to become a therapeutic counsellor and work with young people. Gill initially trained as a bereavement counsellor with Cruse, an organisation that offers support to bereaved people. This led to further counselling courses, until she achieved the advanced diploma in therapeutic counselling and is now an accredited counsellor.

Gill began working with the White Gold initiative, a police project in Cornwall that aims to reduce offending behaviour in young people. Most of the young people Gill works with are prolific offenders, often disadvantaged, frequently unhappy and/or abused, and very challenging, but usually amazing and interesting.

Gill Pearce presented at the SCAS 2011 conference in London.

Read the full article from 2011 at BMJ Careers – Working with animals to help people.


Poppy Power


When Philippa Copleston-Warren was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of ten, she was determined not to let the condition hold her back. Here, she reveals how tiny Yorkshire Terrier Poppy and the charity Medical Detection Dogs have helped her lead a full and independent life …

This is an extract from an article which appears in the Spring 2011 issue of the SCAS Journal.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of ten and suddenly I was different – no one else in my family or school had diabetes. Having previously been the captain of many school sports teams, I was made to sit on the sidelines as teachers didn’t know what to do if I became hypoglycaemic. Low blood sugar can lead to symptoms ranging from confusion and disorientation to unconsciousness and life-threatening seizures.

Unfortunately there were never any warning signs – my friends would ask me if I was OK and I would say I was fine until I passed out. One minute I was seen as sharp and clever at school; the next confused and unclear. In exams I would do really well on the first half of papers but towards the end my writing had often become illegible and the content incoherent.

This carried on throughout school and university, until I was diagnosed with borderline Addison’s disease aged 19. Addison’s is an adrenal disease and temperature changes, hormones, glucose and sucrose greatly affect my adrenaline and subsequently my blood sugar very quickly.

A high flyer feeling low

I did not want my conditions to hold me back as I loved travelling and during my early career enjoyed working in high-powered jobs. At university I worked at Saatchi and Saatchi and after finishing my degree went to into Business Strategy and Change Management Consulting with one of the largest consulting firms. People would be amazed how I would give a great presentation one minute and an appalling one the next. I managed my blood sugar as well as I could,but still it was uncontrollable at certain times. At various points in my career I was found unconscious by friends, colleagues and strangers all round the world – from firemen in Los Angeles to a dustman in London.

After eight years consulting I took a desk job at a large international oil company. However, travelling to my office in Canary Wharf was difficult due to the continued sudden onset of hypoglycaemia. Often when I had low blood sugar I was pushed, shoved, stepped on and nudged by other commuters, causing me to fall over and suffer several injuries. Many people were more interested in getting to their work than helping someone.

Enter Poppy …

It was at this point in my life that I decided to ‘retire’ from the city and work from home – I am now a school Governor and also have my own business. I also made the life changing decision to get a dog, to keep me company. Poppy, a blue and tan Yorkshire Terrier (pictured with me, above right), came to live with me as a puppy, and while she never wanted to leave my side, there were certain times when she would not come near me. She would get very anxious and bark or run. After watching her behaviour closely, my husband said to me: “She is reacting to your blood sugar – have you got low blood sugar?” and 100% of the time he was right. When he first said that to me I would ignore him but then I heard about the charity Medical Detection Dogs.

Medical Detection Dogs train and place specialist dogs who alert their owners prior to a medical emergency. These dogs help people of all ages across the UK who are living with life-threatening health conditions such as Addison’s disease and diabetes. The charity agreed to assess Poppy and, after seeing her brilliant alerting behaviour, agreed to help train her to alert me in more appropriate ways. The training took several months and involved training me, as much as Poppy!

poppymeddogBecause Poppy is a small dog she is not as interested in food as big dogs, so I really had to learn how to reward her with attention. Poppy (like other Medical Alert Dogs) was trained to recognise low blood sugar levels, as these levels give off a different scent compared with blood sugars that are within the normal range. Dogs can be taught to alert their owners in a variety of ways, for example by barking, jumping up, licking or pawing. They will bring their owner glucose and blood testing kits, and get help if necessary. They can even be trained to push alarm buttons. general public benefits from dogs like Poppy too, through the reduced cost of NHS care and hospital admission.

Since becoming a dog owner, I have heard interesting stories of discrimination against dogs, and experienced some upsetting situations myself with Poppy in a supermarket, gym and at the airport. We often get told: “We only accept GUIDE dogs!” Overall there still seems to be a lack of knowledge about assistance dogs, and some large organisations that should know better do not always seem to support the Disabilities Discrimination Act.

Raising awareness


I am now on a mission to increase awareness of Medical Alert Dogs and to help other people who could benefit from these special canine companions. At the end of last year, Poppy and I attended the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH)’s Pet Event at the House of Lords (pictured), which was a great opportunity to give MPs and peers an insight into the valuable work of assistance, rescue and other working dogs’ roles. More recently, we traveled to Switzerland to give a motivational speech at Proctor and Gamble about my experiences – I think Poppy is possibly the smallest-ever assistance dog to travel around Europe!

An extraordinary dog

Back in the UK, you may also have spotted Poppy on TV, when she appeared in the sixth episode (8 March) of Channel 5’s popular 13-part series Extraordinary Dogs. If you missed it, you can catch up on all the previous episodes online at: www.five.tv/shows/extraordinary-dogs.