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NEWS | July 19, 2012

The United States Army Medical Command's Guidance on Service Animals

By U.S. Army Medical Command

The Army is fully committed to the use of service animals as adjuncts in managing physical and psychological disabilities, to include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While the evidence for the effectiveness of service dogs in assisting those suffering with PTSD is not yet definitive, Army Medicine is committed to the employment of safe and effective therapies, to include service animals, to treat our wounded warriors and families.

We have reviewed our Service Animal policy with many stakeholders and outside agencies to best shape it to meet the needs of Soldiers and the Army. We are currently collaborating with the Department of Defense team that is building DoD guidance, as we must be certain that our policy aligns with established DoD guidelines.

The current Army MEDCOM policy assists Soldiers by:

1. Placing only minimal requirements on the Active Duty Soldier in procuring the animal.
2. Assuring that the Soldier gets a properly trained animal able to meet their specific needs.
3. Ensuring that animal provider organizations match Soldiers with dogs
that are safe and possessive of the highest standards of socialization, obedience, and training.

Commanders must protect those who live and work on their installations by assuring that animals meet behavior and safety standards. The Army MEDCOM policy stipulates that dogs must be trained by an organization approved by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) because of the high likelihood that such animals will be safe around others and effectively matched to Soldiers' needs. ADI is a coalition of non-profit organizations that train and place Assistance Dogs. We are actively considering other certification options that may provide safe and effective animals, and we are working with Soldiers and installations to confidently certify currently provided dogs.

The Army is committed to keeping required dogs who meet essential safety and behavior standards with "their" Soldiers. No safe prescribed animal will be taken from a Soldier. The Army is working hard to meet the needs of its Soldiers, and we are appreciative of the assistance that we have received to refine the policy. We are confident that the product that results from this collaborative effort will be a policy that will address Soldier, unit, and installation and facility requirements.