Rep. Sherrill Urges House Passage of Legislation to Pair Veterans with Service Dogs

February 3, 2020
Press Release

Parsippany, NJ -- Today, Representative Mikie Sherrill urged her colleagues to support the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R. 4305). The bipartisan PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act will create a pilot program within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to give veterans access to treatment derived from working with service dogs. Representative Sherrill is a lead sponsor of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act alongside its author, Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH). The House is expected to vote on the legislation this week.

Specifically, the VA will partner with non-profit organizations working with veterans and service dogs to create work-therapy programs that help veterans learn the art and science of training dogs. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may adopt their dogs to provide continuing therapy. In addition to Representatives Sherrill and Stivers, the bipartisan coalition supporting the bill includes Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY), John Rutherford (R-FL), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Michael Waltz (R-FL), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).

“I hosted a group of veterans and their service dogs at the Capitol in November and I was incredibly moved by the story of Vietnam Veteran Walter Parker and his service dog Jackson,” said Representative Sherrill. “Walter shared how Jackson had changed his life. He can now participate in everyday activities we take for granted, like going to the movies or grocery shopping. Walter and Jackson are proof that this program works. It is Congress’ responsibility to make sure no veteran is denied access to this transformational form of therapy, and I am urging all my colleagues to support the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act when it comes to the floor this week.”

Between 11 and 30 percent of veterans experience PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University has shown that working with service dogs alleviates the symptoms of PTSD, leading to better interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and overall better mental health.