Notes on an ongoing long-term government study on PTSD service dogs, the first randomized, controlled trial of its type:
10/8/2009: The three-year study is mandated by Minnesota Senator Al Franken's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Public Law 111-84, § 1077(a) (2009) (the NDAA), which states that “the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall commence a three-year study to assess the benefits, feasibility, and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder.” The outcome measures will be defined by:
- CAPS & PCL-C – PTSD diagnosis
- Depression – measured by PHQ9
- Anxiety – measured by STATE/TRAIT
- Alcohol abuse – measured by the Audit-C
July 2011, the Veteran's Administration started the study, and entitled it, Service Dogs for Veterans With PTSD, NCT01329341, Clinical Trials # NCT01329341
, at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, FL. The original study start date was May 2011 and the estimated completion date was March 2014. You can see the official history here (the following is basically the same history, but with my notes included):
- As of 10/5/2012, the VA announced that they will not cover service dogs for veterans with mental disabilities, but that fact may change if the study goes well. We look forward to the results of the study!
- 2012: Veterans initially randomized into two groups: one that got a Service Dog, and one that didn't, with data collected before and after pairing with their Service Dog. Unfortunately (though not unexpectedly), 99% of the veterans randomly selected to be in the "No Dog" control group dropped out of the program(!)
- 9/13/13: Senator Charles Schumer called on VA
for an immediate update on this study.
- Study restarted. 11/22/13: After two stoppages, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to restart the study. The new study is being overseen by VA's Cooperative Studies Program (CSP), which has decades of experience running large multi-site clinical trials.
- 1/16/14: Update: The VA has officially restarted the three-year study, and plans to award the contract in January or February. In this study, half the veterans will get a Service Dog (trained with tasks), and half get the same dog (but without the access rights to go into public areas).
- 2014. The enrolling of veterans into the study will take 18 months, with the last one enrolled in fall 2015.
- 5/27/14: Confirmation that the three-year study will start "in the coming months" of 2014 with the new name, “Can Service Dogs Improve Activity and Quality of Life in Veterans With PTSD?”. The Clinical Trials # (NCT number) is NCT02039843, and the other study ID # is SDPTSD.
- 9/6/14: The study's website states that work is verified, although still not open to participant recruitment. The completion date is June 2017.
- 1/7/15: The study is now recruiting 220 VA patients as participants for the trials with three locations (Canine Companions for Independence; K2 and the Armed Forces Foundation; Auburn Research and Technology Foundation/Genesis K9, with studies being held in Atlanta, Georgia; Iowa City, Iowa; and Portland, Oregon). The website says this info was last verified in October 2015 and updated on October 2nd, 2015. The time frame is stated as three years. The Estimated Primary Completion Date (final data collection date for primary outcome measure) is October 2016, and the Estimated Study Completion Date is still June 2017.
- 7/14/16: The website says that the study is still recruiting the 220 participants. The Study Start Date is listed as December 2014, the Estimated Primary Completion Date (final data collection date for primary outcome measure) is now December 2017, and the Estimated Study Completion Date is now October 2018. No reason is listed as to why the dates are postponed (the dates are just different now).
- 8/22/17: The study has finished recruiting participants. Yay!
- 2018: Study will be ongoing.
- July 2019: Data collection is scheduled to end.
- April 2020: Study is scheduled to be published (eleven years after the federal law was passed mandating a three-year study...whew!). The study will then be reviewed by the Institute of Medicine, who will prepare a report for Congress.