FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Does Paws 4 Liberty charge for dogs?
No. Paws 4 Liberty provides service dogs at no cost to the recipient. However, we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and depend on donor funds to operate our service dog program. To donate online to Paws 4 Liberty, Click Here.
2. How can I get a service dog from Paws 4 Liberty?
Paws 4 Liberty is focused primarily on providing service dogs to post 9/11 veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). To apply for a dog, Click Here to fill out our online application form. For additional information on applying for a service dog from Paws 4 Liberty, Click Here to visit our application page.
3. Can I train my own dog to be a service dog?
If you already own your own dog and think your dog may be a good candidate to become a service dog, we may be able to help. The first step is to contact us to schedule an evaluation. We will test your dog’s reaction to other dogs, trainability, relationships to people, and physical health, among other things. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that the dog you have chosen will have the degree of socialization, emotional fortitude, and physical characteristics required to become a service dog. If we accept you and your dog into our Train Your Own Dog Program, be prepared for hard work over a significant period of time. This is not a commitment to be made lightly! We can only help those that live within a reasonable driving distance to our Lake Worth facility.
4. Does the Veterans Administration pay for service dogs for veterans with PTS?
No. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not pay for service dogs for veterans, including those with PTS. Veterans with mobility disabilities do receive a minimal VA stipend for dog shots and supplies that amounts to about $400 a year. Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence showing that service dogs help with combat-related PTS, the empirical research that is necessary to back up anecdotal evidence is lagging behind. Until that gap is bridged the VA will not provide the same minimal support for service dogs for veterans with PTS.
5. Can I breed my service dog?
No. According to the standards of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), all service dogs must be neutered. All of the dogs in paws 4 Liberty programs must be neutered at an appropriate age and cannot graduate from our programs unless they are neutered.
6. What is PTS?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) “includes both an event that threatens injury to self or others and a response to those events that involves persistent fear, helplessness or horror.” With severe or repeated exposure to traumatic events, such as during the conditions of war, the brain can be affected in such a way that the person feels like the event(s) are happening again in real time. Studies show that PTS is linked with physical changes in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area of the brain that controls executive functions such as decision making, planning, and self-regulation.
7. What are the symptoms of PTS?
In order to be diagnosed with PTS, a person must have the following three types of symptoms and these symptoms must be persistent over an extended period of time: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance and numbing symptoms, and arousal symptoms.
Re-experiencing symptoms involve re-living the traumatic event(s). For a veteran with PTS, these symptoms can be triggered by such things as a car backfiring, which then triggers vivid memories, or “flashbacks,” that are so realistic it feels like the event(s) is happening again in real time. These flashbacks can cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror.
Avoidance and numbing symptoms are the efforts a person makes to avoid situations that trigger flashbacks or numb themselves to those feelings. For instance, a veteran with PTS may stay in the house in order to avoid triggers or may seem emotionally numb and isolate themselves from social interaction.
Arousal symptoms occur when a person with PTS feels as though they’re always on “high alert.” This increased arousal can cause insomnia, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Picture it as a perpetual state of “fight or flight.”
Additional symptoms of PTS may include hostility, aggression, depression, paranoia, agoraphobia, nightmares, panic attacks, poor coping skills, memory loss, and lack of trust. It also common for sufferers of PTS to experience other conditions along with PTS, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems.
8. How does a service dog help someone with PTS?
Service dogs are a medically proven recovery aid for veterans that are suffering from PTS. The benefits of a service dog to the veterans we serve are numerous “For a veteran with PTS, their service dog can help them gauge the safety of their surroundings by allowing them to process what’s happening as it’s happening, what to do about it, and then doing it,” said Joan Esnayra, a geneticist whose research team has received $300,000 from the Defense Department to study the issue. “You can use your dog kind of like a mirror to reflect back your emotional tenor.” Those with PTS are often bombarded with environmental stimuli (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) that overwhelm the senses and trigger anxiety. Service dogs help alleviate the impact and mirror a calm reaction to the current environment.