American Service Animal Society helps veterans overcome PTSD

Man’s best friend is teaming up with veterans through the American Service Animal Society to help them with post-traumatic stress disorder, mobility issues and many unseen disabilities.

“American Creed,” a documentary premiering on Arizona PBS on Tues., Feb. 28 at 8 p.m., looks into the reasons why more veterans are suffering from PTSD now than at any time in the past. About 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experience it and 20 percent of those who served in Iraq. Service dogs have shown to be a giant help to veterans returning as civilians.

“There is an amazing transformation from the veterans from the first time they walk into the training center to the time they walk out with their dog,” Gerad Claseman, Navy veteran and founder of the American Service Animal Society says.

Each veteran trains their own dog, a factor that Claseman says is the key point. The dogs go through a 20 week basic obedience course which is followed by task training with no cost to the veteran. The canines are taught to recognize and deal with the symptoms of PTSD.

Army vet Ryan Newman completed two tours in Iraq and says he was a “Swiss army knife,” taking on a number of roles and responsibilities. He came home with anxiety and depression, taking 20 pills a day which he says left him numb and detached. He says he read about service dogs and decided to give it a try. Once he started, he never looked back.

“I cannot tell you enough how much this has changed my life,” Navy vet Paul Robinson says. “I’m sitting here talking to you because of their unconditional love. I’m not half as angry as I used to be.”

Claseman says the point of this program is to help veterans regain the things they had in their lives before they joined. The dogs are supposed to ease them back into their community and be comfortable with interacting with people again.

The story will be explored more in “American Creed,” airing Tues., Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.

More information on the American Service Animal Society can be found at dogs4vets.org.

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In this segment:

Gerad Claseman: Veteran and Founder, American Service Animal Society
Ryan Newman: Veteran
Paul Robinson: Veteran

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