New Army Policy Makes It MORE Difficult for Soldiers to Get Service Dogs

Army Specialist David Bandrowsky with “Benny,” his prescribed service dog on
June 2, 2012. Both are stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

photo by Christ Chavez for

We post fairly frequently about the enormous benefits that service dogs provide for soldiers returning from war—whether it’s performing tasks for veterans with physical disabilities or providing comfort and companionship for those with psychological or emotional wounds. Given all the evidence, one would think that the U.S. Army would be working to provide more wounded warriors with service dogs. Unfortunately, that’s the not the case, as MSNBC reports: a new regulation actually makes it more difficult for soldier to get a canine companion.

The problem began in late January, when a 6-year-old boy in Kentucky was tragically killed off-post by a dog belonging to an Army service member at Fort Campbell. The animal was reportedly a service dog, and the new Army policy was issued the next day:

[T]he new Army policy stipulates that dogs must now be provided by organizations approved by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). That umbrella organization certifies local companies and non-profits according to its own criteria, but does not have affiliated chapters in 18 states. Soldiers who want a service dog in a state without an ADI-affiliated organization, such as Louisiana, Montana or Georgia, would have to seek assistance elsewhere.

The policy also requires that soldiers first seek approval for a service dog from their commander. Eligibility would be considered by a panel of health-care professionals, including a primary care doctor, physical therapist and mental health counselor.

In addition, indivual Army posts have instituted even stricter measures. At Fort Bliss, a soldier must exhaust all other options before requesting a service dog. Why should you have to try other methods before trying one proven to work? (See the video below.)

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