Paws Fur Thought won their first battle with the Canadian Government by adding psychiatric service dogs to the tax-deductible program offered to other types of service dogs (blindness, deafness, severe autism, diabetes, epilepsy & prolonged impairment of arms and legs).
The tax deduction of 15 percent is estimated to represent an amount lower than $500 per year per dog, yet Royal Canadian Air Force veteran Medric Cousineau fought five years for this recognition.
“Whomever thinks this is about the money doesn’t understand the issue at all. It’s about a quality; about allowing fair treatment and human rights to all Canadians affected by mental health issues such as PTSD,” said Cousineau.
Cousineau is extremely grateful to Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan for fighting this battle alongside him.
“From the time I met with the Minister on a timetable on pension for life in Halifax to the addition of our service dogs to the policy, only five weeks passed. When I heard the news, I was sitting in a restaurant with friends in Arizona, and I started to cry. I felt like, finally, someone had listened and understood the underlying issues of equity in this battle,” said Cousineau.
For the veteran, this is only one step in the process of breaking stigma against service dogs and PTSD.
“It’s not just about changing veteran’s life; it’s about changing entire families’ lives. The stories we hear of veterans completely secluded before being allowed a service dog and reaching out to the world after are numerous and heartwarming,” explained Cousineau.
The organization paired last Friday their 100th service dog with a veteran. The mission is far from over.
“The demand is still far greater than the offer, but we are working on closing that gap. Wounded Warriors is setting aside money exclusively for this project, and the funds are ever growing. We are now allowing dog-training schools the necessary funding to train as many service dogs as possible without sacrificing quality. It may have taken longer than I had hoped for to reach this point, but we are excited for what’s to come,” said Cousineau.
Veteran’s Affairs Canada will soon publish the results of its first study regarding the use of service dogs in providing safe and efficient treatment for veterans affected by PTSD. Cousineau is not surprised by the results shown in the first phase of the study published last December.
“I know from my own experience and from the stories we hear on a recurrent basis that it works; it can change lives,” shared Cousineau.
Medric Cousineau suffered from PTSD after being lowered on a fishing vessel where two fishermen were severely injured, back in 1986. His dog, Thai, has been of great help regaining the quality of life everyone deserves. She is particularly useful in waking him from night terrors and steering him out of anxiety-inducing public situations.