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Bipartisan Legislation Would Provide Service Dogs to Veterans Suffering from PTSD

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) has received praise from non-profit organizations and industry groups after introducing her bipartisan legislation to help U.S. veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The bill, known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act, would help improve the quality of life for veterans suffering from PTSD by providing them with access to service dogs. 

Support for the PAWS Act:

“We at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council commend Senator Fischer’s introduction of this legislation that will help improve the lives of Veterans suffering from PTSD through the assistance of qualified service animals. The emotional and physical benefits of the human-animal bond are scientifically-documented, and we owe it to our Veterans to provide them with access to service dogs who are specifically trained to meet their unique needs,” said Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

“We are thrilled to see the PAWS Act reintroduced into the Senate.  This is the year it will get passed!  Thank you to Senator Fischer for her leadership and all the co-introducers.  Our Warriors are relying on us and with this step we can fight to end veteran suicide together,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors. 

"Our service members deserve the best treatment options available and it is important to finally recognize service dogs as a treatment option for veterans.  We are thrilled to see the Senate address this long overlooked problem.   Recognizing and funding service dogs for our wounded warriors is critical to meeting their needs,” said Jeremiah Blocker, Executive Director of the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans. 

“The American Kennel Club is proud to support Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers and appreciates Sen. Fischer's leadership in introducing this important bill. Many disabled veterans already benefit from the assistance of service dogs in dealing with physical disabilities. Increasingly, studies are demonstrating that service dogs also play a significant role in helping sufferers of PTSD manage common day-to-day situations that would otherwise prove untenable. This program is a humane and fitting way to honor veterans who have served our nation and now need our support,” said Sheila H. Goffe, Vice President, Government Relations of the American Kennel Club.

“We are excited that Senator Fischer is reintroducing the PAWS Act, legislation that affirms American Humane’s long-held belief that trained service dogs are essential to helping veterans healing from the invisible wounds of war. We are encouraging members on both sides of the aisle to unite in support of this bill, which will put healing leashes in the hands that need them most," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president & CEO of American Humane.

More information on the bill:

A recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that participants who were given service dogs experienced a reduction in their PTSD symptoms and had fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations. Senator Fischer and past PAWS Act cosponsors have long pressed the VA to acknowledge these conclusions. This long-awaited study brings our nation one step closer to getting veterans with PTSD the support they deserve.

The PAWS Act would establish a 3-year program in which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would provide grants of up to $25,000 per veteran to eligible organizations to pair veterans suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with service dogs. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers service dogs for veterans with physical disabilities, it does not currently cover service dogs for veterans with PTSD, despite evidence of the efficacy of service dogs for this type of treatment.  The bill would authorize a total of $10 million to carry out the program from FY 2022 through 2024.

A summary of the bill is available here. Full text of the legislation can be found here.