A SUSSEX police officer and Royal Navy veteran is leading the way in research into post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sergeant Garry Botterill has devised a pilot programme to mitigating the symptoms by allowing armed forces and emergency service veterans suffering with the disorder to work alongside assistance dogs.
The 52-year-old has now been awarded a fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and will travel to the USA and the Netherlands in April to continue his research.
Sgt Botterill has served 22 years with Sussex Police service, including working on the Local Support Team based in Littlehampton.
He said: “I am thrilled to have been awarded a WCMT Travelling Fellowship. I have friends and colleagues who have served in the forces and the emergency services who suffer from this debilitating illness and I am delighted to have the chance to research the subject further so that we can seek to improve the care of our veterans here at home.”
The fellowship, which was awarded in February, allows him to travel abroad to research the ways in which dogs are being used to provide therapeutic care and practical assistance for veterans.
Sgt Botterill explained: “I will be going to San Francisco in April and spending two weeks at the Bergin Canine University before travelling inland to New Mexico and South Carolina, where I will conclude my visit to the USA with a trip to Washington.
“During this time I will visit some of the most innovative and inspirational non-profit organisations in America. These organisations provide dogs that change veterans’ lives for the better, in some cases veterans would even say that the dogs were responsible for saving their lives.
“I will then travel to Amsterdam, where I will meet trainers from the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation who have had great success training dogs to help those with PTSD.
“My research will be looking at how the recipients of the dogs benefit and how programmes are structured to provide these specially-trained dogs to veterans.
I have friends and colleagues who have served in the forces and the emergency services who suffer from this debilitating illness and I am delighted to have the chance to research the subject further so that we can seek to improve the care of our veterans here at homeSergeant Garry Botterill
“The WCMT has made all of this possible. Their support, guidance and help has been amazing and I would urge anyone who has a project that requires overseas research to consider applying to them for a fellowship.
“The process of applying and being successful has given me the confidence to push ahead with my charitable organisation, Service Dogs UK.”
Sgt Botterill’s keen interest in dogs and their welfare saw him introduce microchip scanners to Sussex Police.
More about Garry’s travels and findings can be found at www.servicedogsuk.org or by visiting the Facebook page for Service Dogs UK.