Best mates – can dogs heal hearts and minds?

Event status:

Man crouching down in a field shaking hands with a Golden Retriever. Join us on the evening of Thursday 13 June, and hear our expert panel share how puppies are being trained to help war veterans overcome PTSD. Assistance dogs are already paired up with people for various mental health issues, but on what scientific basis? Are dogs truly healing us?

Thursday 13 June 2019 06:30 pm until Thursday 13 June 2019 08:00 pm (Add to calendar)
Tania Sheward
Presented by:
Ali Moore
Type of Event:
Alumni; Community Event; Conference; Public Lecture
This event is sold out.

This event is sold out. The video of the Best Mates – Can Dogs Heal Hearts and Minds? panel discussion will be available in full on the following day.

Companion animals have long provided emotional support to humans. Yet, there is little understanding of the precise nature of this relationship and the science behind these life-changing connections.

La Trobe University experts are leading a pilot study to better understand how puppies could help some Australian war veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hear from Professor Pauleen Bennett, Head of Psychology and Counselling Department and lead researcher Dr Tiffani Howell both from La Trobe University; war veteran Kellie Dadds; joined by Kevin Picker from the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs; and Mia Cobb from Working Dog Alliance questioning the ethics of using dogs as full-time assistants. And meet our star puppies in training.

Can the human-animal relationship be further strengthened? What is the evidence behind mental health assistance dogs? Should vulnerable people rely on trained dogs?

The panel will explore these questions and also discuss whether people are placing unrealistic expectations on animals, analyse the scientific basis, and explore the growing trend for assistance dogs.

About the speakers

Dr Tiffani HowellDr Tiffani Howell is co-leading La Trobe University’s pilot study, funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to understand the effectiveness of assistance dogs in helping war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She’s a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology and Public Health.

Tiffani has also co-led a project commissioned by the National Disability Insurance Agency to review existing scientific literature and determine the effectiveness of assistance dogs, including to help people with PTSD.

Veteran Kellie DaddsKellie Dadds is a former Army Officer with a career spanning 22 years, mostly as an Intelligence Officer, deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the Solomon Islands among others. She was medically discharged in 2018 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2015.

Kellie is now a full-time mother of three young children, the wife of a veteran, and in her spare time undertakes voluntary work supporting the veteran community. She is a former member of the ACT Veterans’ Advisory Council, a committee member with the Women Veteran’s Network Australia, and was the National coordinator of the 2018 veterans’ initiative ‘By the Left’ aimed at broadening public perception of what a veteran looks like.

Mia CobbMia Cobb is an animal welfare scientist focussed on research to advance the welfare of Australia’s working and sporting dogs. Mia has led the Working Dog Working Group within the Federal Government’s Australian Animal Welfare Strategy.

Mia helped establish the Australian Working Dog Alliance, a non-profit organisation working with industry to improve the welfare of Australia's working and sporting dogs. She believes in helping scientific research escape academic journals and founded the popular canine science platform called Do You Believe in Dog?

Prof Pauleen BennettProfessor Pauleen Bennett is  the Head of the Department of Psychology and Counselling at La Trobe University. She is one of only two Australians recognised as Fellows by the International Society for Anthrozoology, the world’s peak body for scholars investigating relationships between humans and non-human animals.

A large part of Pauleen’s work involves researching how the relationships between companion dogs and humans can be optimised to benefit both species. She’s received more than three million dollars of funding for her research and has published more than 120 scientific manuscripts, as well as numerous reports for government and industry groups.

Kevin PickerKevin Picker is the General Manager at Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs (Australia) which trains assistance dogs with the aim to improve people’s quality of life, enhance independence and facilitate participation in society.

Kevin has first-hand experience of assistance dogs which have helped his autistic son lead a more normal life and give him the independence. Kevin helped found the dog training company to share the benefits that he believes a dog centric psychosocial program can bring to others.

About the Host

Ali MooreAli Moore is a Journalist and Broadcaster. Ali has more than 25 years’ experience working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia’s Nine Network and the BBC’s global news network, based in Singapore. She has covered major news and current affairs events across the region, reporting from Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China, including as the ABC's China Correspondent based in Beijing. She’s now a freelance journalist and a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, working with Asialink.

Note: Event guests are only permitted to bring registered assistance animals. We kindly request that you email the events team on prior to the event day to let us know if you are planning to bring a registered assistance animal. Thank you for your cooperation.


Village Roadshow Theatrette, Entry 3

State Library of Victoria, Village Roadshow Theatrette, 179 La Trobe Street



4th Apr 2020 1:36am

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