The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

Update 11/1/2017. I wanted to update this podcast post from a couple months ago really just to say “nothing’s changed”.

I haven’t had anything to say here since then because there’s really nothing to say – pretty much all I see is the “same old stuff”:

• the continuing repetitious news stories about “fake service dog” laws without any associated long-overdue necessary addressing of whether those laws have been effective or not

• the overall direction of the service dog industry in general and continuing lack of a real, organized, cooperative, and coordinated effort among organizations to attack the existing issues or need

• Canine Companions for Independence continuing to go even further in the wrong direction away from serving their core constituency by now adding their own “new PTSD service dog pilot program

And on and on. All the “same old stuff” I’ve already said here that I’m tired of talking about without being able to do anything about, and that I either need to be able to do that somewhere or, more likely, move on to something else entirely where I can have a real impact and not just talk.

And that’s what I’m working on. I’m now in the final few weeks of my last course at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University for the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and will complete that at the end of this semester.


August 27, 2017

(I just updated this podcast to point out that it was originally recorded before Hurricane Harvey hit the state, and that really makes everything I’m talking about here seem like nothing by comparison. And yet, I know the state will come back from it, and life will go on – that’s not unique to Texas and Texans, but it is very much a characteristic of this state and its people. I’ll also tell you that it just adds to the reasons why we live in the part of the state we do. We’re certainly not immune to weather, including flooding, but being on a hill at 1200 feet elevation in the center of the state definitely has its plusses.)

My focus in the podcast this time is…. me.

I’m about to start my last course in the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management program at the Bush School at Texas A&M. I’ll complete that in a few months, and I’m actively looking for the right place where I can put the ton of things I’ve learned there into play to have a real impact. As I’ve said before, that could be in the assistance dog world or just as well somewhere else entirely.

There are a couple key considerations for me here. First, I need to be able to have a real impact in whatever I’m doing. In the assistance dog world, there are some recurring themes that need to be worked on, regardless of whether I work on them or somebody else does. I talk about those issues this time as well as my frustration with not having had a lot of impact on them, and how if I do remain in this area, that would have to change. Otherwise it’s just me continuing to come here and complain about things without doing anything about them, and that’s just whining.

Second, I don’t really have any interest in moving anywhere and, quite frankly, don’t think I need to. As I point out, and you can see from the map I’ve included below, we are in the geographic center of Texas at the intersection of three major US highways with quick and direct access to the vast majority of the population of the state. It’s an hour to Austin, two to San Antonio, and three to Dallas–Fort Worth, and there are 14 million people in that 175 mile radius; if you expand that to 200 miles, that adds Houston and the number is 21 million. The largest base in the Army, Fort Hood, is 30 miles away, and there’s an airport there as well that you can fly to anywhere from. The bottom line is I’m ideally geographically positioned both in Texas and nationally to do most anything.

All roads lead to Lampasas - centrally located in Texas.

Core Themes

These are the recurring themes I talk about in this podcast:

Back to Basics. Like so many places, there’s a real need to get back to basics in a number of areas in the assistance dog community, the big one being focusing on one-on-one service dog placements with adults with physical issues as the primary focus, which I think has been lost.

Choices. We need to give people choices – and good choices – whether it’s program dogs, or going to individual trainers, or training a dog themselves, or something other than a service dog.

Effectiveness and Efficiency. We have a responsibility to serve the constituencies out there not just effectively, but efficiently. More dogs by itself is simply not enough – there has got to be a better match between available resources that are finite, and the need that you are serving. The prevalent idea that “there’s a dog for that” – maybe, maybe not. And maybe not necessarily a service dog.

Specific Issues

Specific things I talk about in much more detail include:

• An outstanding new Marcie Davis podcast interview with Marsha Gilford, the regional director at Kroger who’s responsible for creating the great service dog education program you may have seen in their Smith’s stores.

 Smith's Food & Drug Centers assistance dog educational campaign poster developed by Kroger regional director Marsha Gilford.Smith’s Food & Drug Centers assistance dog educational program poster.

It’s very encouraging to me to see someone who’s in a position to work this issue stepping out and actually doing that. As I’ve said for years, “What do you think is gonna be more successful here? All the legislation and the supposed enforcement that’s already in place? Or major retailers who say let’s take this one on and let’s handle this in a positive way?”

On the downside, where is Assistance Dogs International in this effort (or anywhere else, for that matter)? MIA, as best I can tell. ADI advertised an Operations Coordinator position in March to handle this and other public presence issues, but there’s no indication five months later that anyone has been hired or any changes have been made.

• My concerns over the limited number of service dog resources available to meet the needs of the 3.4 million people with disabilities in Texas (second only to California with 4 million), and, more specifically, my disappointment with the new Canine Companions for Independence regional center in Irving, Texas, and the specific reasons I feel that way (and there are a number of them). You don’t have to look any further than their recent graduation a few weeks ago to understand the issue.

• Veterans, in particular legislation to provide them with service dogs, and a comparison of the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program, PAWS Act, and the newly introduced Pups for Patriots Act (see the table below).

There are two major issues with legislation, and none of the current bills include both elements. First, it has to focus on the veteran end, not the organization end, and give veterans many good choices for where they can get a service dog. Two of these acts provide grants, one calls for contracts (a great leap backward), but none of them provide a benefit directly to the veteran to use in an eligible way that the veteran deems is appropriate for them.

Second, it needs to include all eligible veterans, not just “post 9/11, post-traumatic stress”. There are reasons both philosophical and statistical for that. For example, the oft-quoted August 2016 VA suicide report said that 65% of all veterans who died by suicide were age 50 or older, which implies they may not meet those criteria. If you restrict things to post-9/11 veterans, you risk missing the very veterans you say you are trying to target.

• When you hear “service dog”, think “public access”, and think of public access as “being able to take a dog someplace that dogs normally are not allowed to go”. That’s an operational definition, as opposed to a strictly legal or technical one, that is a first cut that will help you decide if you want to pursue a service dog since that’s what drives everything else. (Hard to believe I first wrote about this seven years ago, but it’s still as true now as it was then.)

While I’ve said “back to basics” is key, there are other newer areas that interest me, including:

• Diabetic alert dogs. There’s a real need, and also still a lotta controversy about a number of the places placing those dogs. I wish we could clone or expand the two regional ones in California that are the gold standard in this area – Dogs for Diabetics and Early Alert Canines.

• Alzheimer’s dogs. There’s work being done overseas, but not so much in the US yet. When you look at the disability numbers in the study I’ve referenced, you will note a tremendous increase in those numbers at age 65, and many of those are cognitive disabilities.

If you’ve got something in mind where I might be able to help you out and that you think might be interesting to me, please get in touch.

Service Dogs For Veterans Legislation Comparison

Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program

PAWS Act

Pups for Patriots Act

Funding Type

Grants

Grants

Contracts

Annual Amount

$5 million

$2.5 million

$7.5 million

Funding Parameters

Max of 20 grants; amount determined by USUHS

$25,000 per referral

$25,000 per service dog

Time Period

5 years

5 years

5 years

Organization Eligibility

Accredited by ADI, IGDF, or another
similar widely recognized accreditation organization that the Secretaries
determine has accreditation standards that meet or exceed ADI or IGDF standards, or is a candidate for such accreditation
or otherwise meets or exceeds such standards, as determined by the
Secretaries.

ADI accredited or that meets the Association of Service Dog Providers
for Military Veterans Service Dog Agency Standards.

Adhere to the national standards for the selection, training, and assessment of service dogs for veterans developed at what the bill describes as “a convening facilitated by the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations” (it was actually put together by American Humane Association).

Eligible Conditions

Blindness or visual impairment; loss of use of a limb,
paralysis, or other significant mobility issues; hearing loss; TBI; PTS; any other disability SecDef
and SecVA consider appropriate.

PTS

PTS, TBI

Eligible Servicemembers / Veterans

Members receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy
under chapter 55 of title 10, USC; in medical hold or medical holdover
status; or covered under section 1202 or 1205 of title 10, USC. Veterans
enrolled in the health care system established under section 1705(a) of title
38, USC.

Veteran in the VA patient enrollment system under section 1705
of title 38, USC and has been treated and has completed an established
evidence-based treatment for PTS yet remains diagnosed with PTS by a
qualified health care provider as rated on the PTS checklist (PCL–5)

Post 9/11, diagnosed with severe or extreme PTS or TBI by a VA doctor or clinical social worker who has
treated the veteran; has received evidence-based treatment and remains
symptomatic; commits to an evaluation by a VA doctor or clinical social
worker at a minimum of two times per year.

Agency

DOD / USUHS

VA

VA

Links

Working Like Dogs – Episode 136 – Marcie Davis Interview With Marsha Gilford

“People With Disabilities: A Texas Profile” – Texas Workforce Investment Council.June 2016 Update

Canine Companions for Independence Northeast Region August 2017 Graduation Video (Board chair talk starts at 5:55)

“Suicide Among Veterans and Other Americans 2001–2014” Office of Suicide Prevention, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 3 August 2016

Nico Marcolongo, Operation Rebound Senior Manager, Challenged Athletes Foundation

PAWS Act Of 2017

Pups for Patriots Act Of 2017

Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program

https://www.americanhumane.org/blog/american-humane-applauds-introduction-of-pups-for-patriots-act/

https://www.americanhumane.org/app/uploads/2016/11/Convening-Report-2016.pdf

http://assistancedogsofthewest.org/our-programs/owner-self-training/

“PTSD May Be Physical and Not Only Psychological – Brain’s Emotional Control Center Shown to be Physically Larger”

When You Hear “Service Dog”, Think “Public Access”

Assistance Dogs For Alzheimer’s Training Similar To Guide Dogs