Therapy Dog Program Helps Veterans with PTSD in Court

Dogs Help Vets Relax Through Rehabilitation
Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 18:33:14-04

A Tampa court is giving veterans with PTSD, a second chance and it wouldn't be possible without help from dogs.

Veterans coming into Tampa's Treatment Court are in trouble with the law, but this is no regular courtroom.

The Veterans Treatment Court on East Twiggs Street is just one of 200 in the nation. The focus is on helping veterans get better and keeping them out of jail.

“They are afraid of their own thoughts, afraid of sleeping because all of this comes back," said Lori Stevens. Her finance, Ricky, has PTSD.

“He would just completely break down, couldn’t talk to him about anything," she said.

His anxiety got so bad after seeing our camera, he wasn’t able to talk to us. But just being in the courthouse is a huge improvement. In the past, he couldn’t get out of bed and show up. The change is all thanks to a therapy dog named Oliver.“He shakes [Ricky] really, really badly in front of the judge and the dog when he comes up leans against him.

He’s able to reach down and touch the dog and you can see his body language totally relax," said James Salgado, a senior mentor for veterans at the courthouse. He also helped bring volunteers with Canines for Christ into court.

The results are dramatic. Just within a couple of seconds of touching Oliver, your blood pressure drops, your heart rate goes down and endorphins are released. Lori has seen a noticeable difference in Ricky.

“Just a touch, just a feel. It just calms him, it really does calm him for Oliver to be there," she said.

Judge Gregory Holder’s court must be doing something right. Today,  the Alliance for Global Narcotics Training gave him an award. His court, also, handpicked by the Department of Justice, to improve veterans courts nation-wide.