Wait time for service dogs a growing problem across country, say schools
'There's more Canadians in need that could benefit than we can serve at any given time'
An army veteran who served for eight years says he was disturbed to learn that it would take almost two years to get a service dog to help him cope with PTSD.
"That was a little disappointing. I was hoping for the dog right away, because it's a day to day thing that I need, not two years down the road," said Belfast, P.E.I., resident Clinton White.
White served in Afghanistan in 2009 and was medically released from the army in 2015 after being diagnosed with PTSD. He applied for the service dog after returning home.
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He's since gotten an untrained dog as a companion, but he says that's not the same as having an animal that's gone through the schooling.
"[The] biggest challenge for a veteran with PTSD, a lot of cases, going out in public, you know if I could take her out shopping with me, that would have been a great benefit, but I do what I can I guess with what I have," he said.
Growing wait times
According to the PEI Council of People with Disabilities, long wait times for service dogs has been an ongoing problem.
"My initial response is that's way too long but when you delve into it and really understand how the process works, then you understand why it takes that long," said the council's executive director, Marcia Carroll.
It says the process needs to be thorough, but the lengthy training process for the dogs and the time it takes to match dogs with the right owner are the main reasons for the wait.
Demand is 'quite substantial'
Speeding up that process, however, has proven to be a challenge for Canada's service dog schools.
CBC spoke to three accredited schools across the country. All of them have wait lists ranging from one to more than two years. Some of the non-profit schools have even stopped taking new applicants for service dogs.
"The demand around Canada, I would say is quite substantial," said Alex Ivic, program director for Lion's Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, which serves P.E.I.
"There's more Canadians in need that could benefit than we can serve at any given time."
Ivic said shortening the wait list comes down to resources: they need more dogs and more teachers, but quickening the process as is wouldn't be possible.
"The last thing that we would ever want to do is start rushing through the process to serve more Canadians quicker to give them [a dog] that's now become an additional worry."
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