Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 17, 2014

Treating PTSD in Military Dogs

WOAI in San Antonio has a piece on post-traumatic stress disorder in military dogs, highlighting the work of Walter Burghardt, a veterinarian and researcher at Lackland Air Force Base in the Texas city. Behavioral studies for pooches aren’t the same as for people, of course.

“The impression that a lot of people get, you know, we sit there on a couch with a pad and ask them questions, trying to make sense of a dog’s sounds and grunts and whines. And that’s not it at all. We really are working on a behavioral level. Observable things that we can see,” Burghardt told the TV station.

A New York Times article in 2011 said it was estimated that 5 percent of the dogs used by combat forces were “developing” PTSD, while WOAI says in its report that as much as 10 percent of the canines were “showing symptoms.”

The fiscal 2013 defense authorization law included provisions — sponsored by Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. — clarifying that dogs are not “equipment.” The legislation also spelled out a protocol for giving retired military working canines the chance to be adopted.

Army Times also profiled Burghardt’s work in 2010.

  • choosecompassionalways

    Really? “…giving retired military working canines the chance to be adopted”? I’m glad the legislation clarified that the dogs are not equipment, but I think we have a responsibility to retired working military dogs to ENSURE that they are not discarded and euthanized. In case the military is unaware, hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of healthy dogs are discarded and euthanized in this country every year because they failed their chance at adoption. Why? Lots of people avoid the dismal concentration-camp “shelters” where stray and unwanted dogs are incarcerated. Some people are too lazy to put out the effort to train a dog and so discard them when they’re large enough to be annoying because they lack even basic manners, there is stubborn discrimination against mixed breeds, and then you have irresponsible people intentionally or unintentionally breeding more dogs. A “chance” at adoption is simply not good enough.

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