Operation K9 steps up

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs have today appointed the Royal Society for the Blind to the panel to provide veterans with Psychiatric Assistance Dogs.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said –

“These dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help their owner when experiencing symptoms of PTSD, such as a night terror, and helping veterans to reach their clinical recovery goals.”

“Adding two new providers will increase the availability of psychiatric assistance dogs and ensure the growing demand from eligible veterans can be met.”

“I encourage veterans managing their PTSD and who are interested in this program to contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to check the eligibility requirements and to apply to get an assistance dog.”

More than 140 applications for psychiatric assistance dogs have been received by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and having two new providers, along with two existing ones, will ensure the program supports veterans across the nation.

To be eligible for a psychiatric assistance dog, veterans must have a Veteran Gold or White Card, have a diagnosis of PTSD from a psychiatrist and be currently engaged in treatment with their mental health professional for a minimum of three months.

The Chair of the Royal Society for the Blind, Dr. Grant Raymond, acknowledged the appointment and said it was a further validation of the service the RSB already provided to veterans in SA.

“The RSB is delighted to have been appointed to the panel to provide Psychiatric Assistance Dogs to Veterans of the Australian armed forces. Having established our own bespoke program, Operation K9, built under the expert guidance of our best in class Guide Dog Service, and subsequently committing to funding some 30 dogs already, we look forward to expanding our support for our veterans through this appointment and thank the Minister for this opportunity.”
Grant Raymond – Chair

Rob Dempsey, CEO of the RSB, echoed the sentiment of the Chair and said it was a genuine boost to the organisation’s confidence that the investment it had made into the Operation K9 program supporting veterans was an authentic commitment with significant social and economic outcomes.

“As the leading provider of Guide Dogs in South Australia, when asked, the opportunity to extend the service to veterans with PTSD, launching Operation K9 for veterans, was an easy commitment for our organisation. As an organisation with over 135 years standing, and a record of outstanding support of the vision impaired community, we have readily adapted our training skills into the development of dogs who are providing significant enhancement of the quality of life for many veterans. I would like to thank the Government for in effect acknowledging this investment, and we are looking forward to continuing to provide this fantastic service.”
Rob Dempsey – CEO

The appointment to the panel will see the RSB expand its service to support veterans through its bespoke Operation K9 service. The service currently provides for 30 veterans and it has ambitions to expand that to 50 or more within 2 years.

Executive Manager of Community Services for the RSB, Jody Martin-Rankin, said that the service was a best in class model, and that the RSB was confident that it would continue to provide for more veterans over the ensuing few years.

“This appointment is a most exciting one for our team and in many ways represents the culmination of many years of hard work and genuine commitment to the establishing and development of the Operation K9 for veteran’s program over the last few years. My sincere thanks to the Board of the RSB for their support when this program was first discussed, and to my team lead by Lindy Hennekam who have taken this program to the point where we have been privileged to be appointed to the DVA panel to provide these wonderful dogs.”
Jody Martin Rankin – EM, Community Services

“It’s thrilling to have achieved this position, and to see Operation K9 recognised like this, which is the result of the very hard work of everyone here at the RSB and in particular my trainers, instructors and as importantly literally hundreds of volunteers and thousands and thousands of man hours to make sure we can really change the life of so many veterans. Thanks to the management team at the RSB, the Board, and to the public who have continued to assist us either in sponsoring pups, making donations, providing their time and resources”
Lindy Hennekam, Manager Guide and Assistance Dog Service