Sgt. Jeffrey Yetman wins the right to have his dog at his side

Edmonton soldier’s battle over service dog wins support from top general

Sgt. Jeffrey Yetman, a veteran of five overseas deployments, says his dog has changed his life

CBC News Posted: Jan 28, 2016 7:09 AM MT Last Updated: Jan 28, 2016 7:09 AM MT

Sgt. Jeffrey Yetman, a veteran of five overseas deployments, wants to see changes to recent rules that ban his service dog from many buildings on base.

Sgt. Jeffrey Yetman, a veteran of five overseas deployments, wants to see changes to recent rules that ban his service dog from many buildings on base. (CBC)

An Edmonton soldier’s emotional battle to have his beloved service dog at his side received some much-needed support Wednesday from Canada’s top general and the defence minister.

But Sgt. Jeffrey Yetman, a veteran of five overseas deployments, said he will wait to see whether there are changes to new rules that now ban his service dog from many buildings on base.

Yetman said he was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder in 2002. Despite that, he continued to deploy overseas, until a severe breakdown in 2013.

A year later, he was given Diego, a German shepherd service dog he said has changed his life.

“I wouldn’t leave my house for days, weeks on end, without my wife,” he said. “I didn’t like crowds, I didn’t like people. I hated myself.”

As he spoke, he stroked Diego’s head. “He brought me out of that dark corner.”

A soldier for 26 years, Yetman said he first heard of Standing Order 109 when he saw it posted on the door of the officers’ mess at CFB Edmonton last weekend.

He read a copy of the order for CBC News. “Service dogs will not be permitted in the mess and kitchen facilities, at PSP facilities, to include swimming pools, gymnasiums, field houses and ice arenas.”

Stunned by news

Yetman said he was stunned to learn his companion of almost two years will no longer be allowed in the base gymnasium, where the sergeant used to take his two young daughters twice a week.

“It takes my freedom of movement away,” he said.

On Wednesday, the chief of the defence staff issued a statement about Yetman’s case.

“I support him having access to base facilities within the limits of reason and accommodating reasonable concerns of others who may be affected,” General Jonathan Vance said. “I have directed that he be engaged in a sensitive way to work out how best to meet his needs. I think this is an unfortunate misunderstanding, but I believe it can be resolved with some care and understanding.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also weighed in, saying the Canadian Armed Forces is well-aware of the importance of service dogs to some soldiers.

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