A Tayside army veteran says his therapy dog has been banned from a mental health treatment centre because of concerns about allergies.
Former soldier Paul Wilkie, from Guildtown, near Perth, was paired with springer spaniel Irma to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Bravehound charity, which helps ex-servicemen and women to adjust to civilian life, brought them together after Paul’s tours of duty in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Irma was allowed to stay with Paul in hospital when he underwent treatment but says his beloved pet has been banned from a Combat Street therapy centre in Ayrshire.
He told the Daily Record: “Irma has transformed my life. It is thanks to her that I am not another tragic suicide statistic.”
Paul said: “I was raging when Combat Stress said I could not bring her to the centre at Hollybush House when I get treatment for my PTSD.
“They have said it is a health issue – that people may be allergic to dogs.”
He added: “PTSD changes your life, the depression, the anxiety. It ruined my marriage and I lost my house.
“Having Irma calmed me right down. Instead of waking up frightened and crying, I’ve got a puppy licking my face.”
Maria Lam, of Combat Stress, said Irma isn’t allowed in the centre because of health and safety concerns, but she said they are looking into the case.
“We are reviewing our policy on allowing assistance dogs at treatment centres,” she said. “We do everything we can to meet the needs of veterans, but we have to ensure that health and safety procedures are followed.
“This includes carrying out a risk assessment and making staff and veterans aware to allow them to raise concerns.”
Fiona MacDonald of Erskine-based Bravehound said: “Our dogs are welcomed in hospitals, dentists and most places.”
Paul and Irma were earlier this year finalists in the animal partnership category of the Soldiering On awards.