Bill to help veterans get service dogs gets tail-wagging support from lawmakers, K9s For Warriors

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The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2021 today got some barktastic support from the nation’s largest service dog provider to veterans with military-related trauma during a press conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“Making service dogs more accessible to veterans will ultimately empower our nation’s heroes to successfully reintegrate into civilian life,” said K9s For Warriors CEO Rory Diamond “The PAWS Act would commit considerable resources towards properly training and pairing service dogs with veterans who would most benefit from them.”

The PAWS Act was Introduced by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Florida. If passed, it will require the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a grant program that will pay for and provide service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress and other mental health diagnoses.

A recent VA study found that veterans with post-traumatic stress who were paired with service dogs showed less suicidal ideation and more symptom improvement compared to veterans paired with an emotional support dog. VA has yet to release another comprehensive report on service animals and veteran health veterans, lawmakers and advocates have been anticipating for more than a year.

"Research from the VA has concluded that service dogs are a proven therapy for those suffering from PTSD,” said Rutherford. “With twenty veterans taking their own lives each day, we must do more to help those with PTSD and other service-connected forms of trauma.”

Other studies published by Purdue University researchers corroborate VA's previous findings and verify the benefits that service dogs can have on veterans.

“The research we have conducted at Purdue demonstrates that veterans suffering from PTSD paired with service dogs showed significantly lower symptoms related to PTSD,” said Dr. Maggie O'Haire, associate professor, Center for the Human-Animal Interaction at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The VA does not currently fund service dog programs.

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“When our nation’s heroes return home, they should have access to all the care they need to address the injuries they have sustained – both physical and emotional,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire. “We know that service dogs can provide tremendous support to veterans living with PTSD, and I am proud to introduce legislation alongside Congressman Rutherford that will pay for and provide service dogs to American veterans to help them recover and thrive. ”

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said the nation owes it to its veterans to pursue any and all possible treatments to alleviate their post-traumatic stress.

“I’ve met soldiers who served under my command in Operation Iraqi Freedom who have had their lives transformed by working with a service dog – they get their lives back,” he said.

The bill would support organizations, such as K9s For Warriors, that primarily receive their service dogs from high-kill shelters.

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