EDMONTON – An Edmonton-based solider who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder says he was given no explanation as to why his service dog has been barred from entering certain areas of the Edmonton Garrison.
“I’ve worn my uniform for 26 years of my life, that’s over half my life. I’ve defended this country, I’ve defended the institution of the Canadian Forces. I never thought that, in my 26th year, I’d have to fight for my rights,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Yetman.
Yetman, 42, was diagnosed with PTSD in 2002 after two tours in Croatia and one in Bosnia. He also served two tours in Afghanistan after his diagnosis.
Yetman received his service dog, Diego, two years ago to help with his PTSD. He says Diego has changed his and his family’s life.
“Prior to that, I was living a horrible existence. I was in a dark place. I was pretty much cut off from my social network. I was horrible to my family, horrible to myself,” Yetman explained.
Before Diego, Yetman didn’t like leaving the house by himself and he couldn’t stand to be around crowds. All of that changed when Diego came into his life.
“I was able to feel like a human being again. It gave my wife back a little bit of her identity. She wasn’t Jeffrey Yetman’s caregiver any more, she was Jeffrey Yetman’s wife. She was Tammy Yetman again,” he said.
“He let me take my kids places. He let me take my kids to McDonald’s by myself. He let me take my kids to the gym by myself, which was pretty cool.”
But that changed last week. According to a new Edmonton Garrison Standing Order, Yetman says some service dogs are no longer allowed at certain places on the base including the gym, the pool and the mess. Further to this, Yetman says the notice states people with certain service dogs must provide 24 hours notice to any place on the base they plan to attend.
“I can’t go to the sergeant’s mess at this point, a place where myself and my wife go to mingle with other people,” Yetman added. “My quality of life has been shattered, really. It’s been stepped upon.”
Yetman has learned the reason he can’t have Diego everywhere is because of his certification. In Alberta, all Assistance Dog International (ADI) certified dogs are allowed everywhere, but Diego isn’t ADI certified. He was certified in the United States, but Yetman says his certification is just as good.
“He’s fully trained in all (areas) he’s required of a service dog, not a companion dog, not a therapy dog. He’s a service dog.”
Edmonton Garrison officials say a severe allergy on the base prompted the new rule. Cpt. Donna Riguidel, a public affairs officer, says the order is being reviewed in order to balance the needs of everyone.
Federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says he realizes the importance of service dogs and his department is also looking into the matter.
“What I’ve been briefed on is that the service dog was one of the certain program,” Sajjan said. “But rest assured, when it comes to the mental health of our troops is that is the absolute number one priority for me and the department.”
Yetman hopes the situation will be resolved quickly, not just for him but for others who may find themselves in similar situations.
“I’m a sergeant with 26 years in and they’re trying to pull this stuff with me, a guy who’s been through what I’ve been through, who knows the system,” he said. “If they think they can push me to the wayside and get me to buckle, what are they going to do to the soldier… three, four years in?”
With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.
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