WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) was signed into law. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a pilot program on dog training therapy based on the promising “train the trainer model,” that will provide dog-training skills and service dogs to veterans with mental illnesses, regardless of whether or not they have mobility issues.
“Today is a win for our nation’s veterans who live with post-deployment mental health conditions. I have made it a priority since being elected to the Senate to do everything possible to combat veteran suicide, and this legislation adds another tool in the toolbox for our men and women who served,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud we could get this bipartisan legislation across the finish line and signed into law, and I want to thank former Rep. Stivers and my colleagues in Congress for coming together to pass this legislation that will enable dog training therapy for our veterans.”
"Now more than ever, veterans suffering from invisible wounds of war need access to trained service dogs which have been scientifically proven to help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and military sexual trauma" said Bill McCabe, Director of Legislative Affairs at The Enlisted Association. "We thank President Biden and Senator Tillis for recognizing veterans need every possible option when seeking mental health treatments, and look forward to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement this important program."
"This is a huge step for wounded servicemembers and the organizations who serve them," said Amanda Baity, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at SemperK9 Assistance Dogs. "We are very grateful President Biden has signed this important legislation into law and look forward to working with VA to save veterans lives who suffer from the debilitating effects of PTSD, TBI, and MST."
“We commend the White House for supporting this bill as a critical step in combatting veteran suicide, and we’re confident in the path ahead for Service Dogs ultimately becoming a covered VA benefit to veterans with PTSD,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. “In communicating with veterans and their healthcare providers, it’s more imperative than ever to embrace the lifesaving impact of a Service Dog and to raise awareness for this treatment option as a proven method for mitigating debilitating symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideations.”
According to a report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the number of veterans with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use orders increased from 27 percent in 2001 to more than 40 percent in 2014, and an average of 20 veterans per day died by suicide in 2014.
The bipartisan PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act aims to reduce veteran suicide connected to mental health conditions by partnering veterans experiencing symptoms of PTSD and other post-deployment issues with service dogs through a Department of Veterans Affairs pilot program. Dog therapy programs have a track record of reducing symptoms associated with PTSD and through this pilot program, veterans are expected to experience an improved quality of life and ability to re-enter society as well as increased chances of survival.
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act was co-introduced by U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Read full text of the bill HERE.