Rep. Sherrill Applauds Passage of PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act
Washington, DC –– Today, Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) applauded the House for once again passing Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R. 1448). Representative Sherrill is a lead sponsor of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act alongside its author, Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH).
“For the lives of some servicemembers, this program and the dogs they connect with could be life changing,” said Rep. Sherrill. “The experts all agree that this is one of the best mental health treatments for veterans who may be struggling from post-traumatic stress. The results these veterans and their dogs achieve and the bond they share is remarkable. I’m so proud that we’ve passed this program through the House once more. Now, we need to keep up the pressure to ensure it passes in the Senate and gets signed into law.”
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act will create a pilot program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to provide veterans with access to treatment through work with service dogs. The VA will partner with non-profit organizations working with veterans and service dogs to create work-therapy programs where veterans can learn the art and science of training dogs. The dogs are trained to do things like block an overwhelming crowd to help give their veteran space or to wake them up if they’re having a nightmare. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may adopt their dogs to provide continuing therapy.
An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day. The VA estimates that post-traumatic stress impacts veterans at roughly a rate of between 11 and 30 percent of veterans who served in conflicts through the last several decades. This month, the VA unveiled the results of a highly anticipated study: pairing veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS) with service dogs is an effective form of treatment for their mental health and to overcome PTS.
According to the VA, pairing veterans with service dogs, instead of emotional support dogs, resulted in less symptoms of PTS and less risk of suicide. This study, and its results, were reviewed by mental health providers, veterinarians, dog trainers, statisticians, and other research experts at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
The latest evidence builds upon the widely accepted studies previously published on the subject. Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University has shown that veterans working with service dogs show fewer symptoms of PTS and depression, leading to better interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and overall better mental health.
In the 116th Congress, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R. 4305) unanimously passed the House. This hybrid piece of legislation, H.R. 4305, passed with the bipartisan support of 324 cosponsors.
The bill text can be found here.