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Dogs – PTSD, Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs

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Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs have different roles and different entry privileges into certain public and private spaces.

A Harford County organization called Dog Tags and Tails pairs rescue dogs from high kill shelters with local veterans. Many army veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the dogs provide much needed emotional support for them.

Their mission statement as described on their website is:

To Provide Charitable Support To America’s Military Service Men, Women, Canines And Their Families By Meeting Humanitarian Needs Beyond That Normally Provided By Department Of Defense.

The veterans can suffer from nightmares and other issues and the dogs pick up on this distress. They provide support and companionship, helping the veterans cope and preventing them from spiraling deeper into darkness.

All the dogs and veterans also get training from Mike Roller, a Marine and police K-9 officer, from Blue Line K-9. The president of Dog Tags and Tails emphasizes that the dogs are not selected by breed – they simply want to make sure that the right dogs are paired with the right people and circumstances and so they are not just focused on the PTSD. Each dog costs Dog Tags and Tails about $3,000, which they raise money for through fundraisers. The dogs are then provided for free to area veterans.

“These people have sacrificed their lives for us and it’s our job to step up and do what’s needed for them,” the Dog Tags and Tails president said.

The dogs make a huge difference in the lives of the veterans, and the dogs themselves are provided with new meaning and a second chance at life.

Dog Tags and Tails accepts volunteers for a variety of positions, such as event promotion, veteran outreach, Dog training, public relations, fundraising, marketing and grant writing. If you’d like to volunteer, visit their site and you can contact them here:

You can view a recent news broadcast by WBAL TV here:

A little more about Dogs as Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs:

Dogs aren’t just great pets – they’re fabulous companions, provide emotional support and can be service animals.  Having a dog as a pet has many benefits for dog lovers. They help bring out feelings of love and compassion, are fun to be around and greatly reduce stress. Studies have shown that the cumulative benefits of having a dog in your house actually lead to a longer life span – they literally add more years to your life. They’re a great reason to get you out of your home and outdoors. You can meet new people and lead a more active lifestyle.

Dogs can be emotional support dogs or service animals. These are two different roles:

Service Dogs

Service dogs are trained to do specific tasks or duties that a person can’t do themselves due to a disability. They can pick up things, help someone who loses their balance and falls easily, help people who are having seizures, guide people who have hearing or vision problems and lead them to destinations they would have difficulty getting to otherwise. In order to be considered a service animal, the dog must go through actual training – simply protecting someone or giving them emotional support does not qualify the dog as a service animal. Since their handler depends on the dog’s help, these dogs are allowed (with some exceptions) to accompany people in public places where dogs are normally not allowed – such as airplanes, restaurants and most business places (as long as the dog does not cause any direct threat, fundamental alteration, or undue burden on the business). It is important to note that it is the dog handler who has access rights and not the actual dog. Therefore, a guide dog without his disabled handler has no particular access rights of his own. The dogs are trained to behave well in public while providing much needed support to their owners.

Emotional Support Dog

An emotional support dog helps its owner feel better by providing companionship and comfort. These animals help owners with a mental health condition and are often called emotional support dogs, support dogs or comfort dogs.  An emotional support dog does not need any special training and can generally simply be a regular pet. It can be termed an “emotional support dog” if a mental health provider writes a letter saying that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog’s help for his or her emotional support. As such, in most states, these dogs are not awarded the same special permissions to go to all public places in the same way that service dogs do. However, they do sometimes get special consideration. For instance, they may be allowed to be in an apartment or house that usually prohibits dogs from living there. Sometimes, the owner may be able to get permission to take their emotional support dog on a plane together with the them – however, due to many instances of people abusing this service animal privilege (remember the peacock incident?), this may not be possible as frequently anymore. There have also been an increase in the number of biting incidents that have occurred in public spaces where these dogs have been taken as many of them do not have sufficient professional training in order to be agreeable around other people, dogs, and animals.

Emotional support dogs are trusting allies and understanding friends to people with mental health issues. They provide therapeutic, physiological and psychological benefits to individuals with special needs which can range from depressive emotional disorders to physical conditions such as Lupus. They can also benefit seniors by providing companionship and affection and by encouraging physical activity.


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