Canada’s government is backing research to assess the benefit of using horses and dogs to help war veterans deal with mental health issues.
Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney joined representatives from St John Ambulance Canada to announce two partnerships for the research.
“Our Government is exploring every option for improving the care and support available for Canada’s Veterans and their families,” Blaney said.
“I have heard veterans across Canada loud and clear, we know there is interest in animal therapy and we are exploring its use for veterans.”
St John Ambulance chancellor Mairi Arthur said: “Each year, 2500 St John therapy dog teams provide over 180,000 hours of service to children, the elderly, the lonely, and the sick across Canada, enriching their lives.
“We are excited about the pilot project being supported by Veterans Affairs Canada and we hope that this research will help contribute to improving the quality of life of our veterans.
Steve Critchley, co-founder of Can Praxis, which uses equine-assisted therapy to held soliders recover, said he was pleased to be part of the initiative.
“Horses respond to human body language. Our staff helps veterans and their spouses in learning about and understanding the horse’s reaction. It is this innovative combination that helps put theory into practice and reduces stress. This helps the families as they fine tune their relationship.”
Veterans Affairs Canada will partner with St John Ambulance Canada and Can Praxis, who will work to evaluate the use of dogs and horses to improve the overall mental health and well-being of veterans.
Can Praxis has partnered with the University of Saskatchewan and St John Ambulance with McGill University to measure the benefits of their respective programs.
Wounded Warriors Canada founder Wayne Johnston said he was heartened to see that Veterans Affairs Canada listening to veterans with mental health illness.
“It is a huge step to study the benefits of therapy dogs and of equine therapy — two programs that Wounded Warriors Canada is proud to help fund and will continue to support in the years ahead.”
Both St John Ambulance and Can Praxis will receive $C25,000 to advance the research.