Biden signs bill to pair veterans with puppies to fight PTSD and reduce suicides
A law teaching military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder how to train service dogs and then have them adopt the animals was enacted by President Joe Biden.
The bill, which will allow puppies and veterans to transcend partisan divisions in Congress, was approved by the Senate earlier this month after the House of Representatives passed it in May. It is setting up a five-year pilot program under the Veterans Affairs Department.
“We know that service dogs are a proven form of life-changing and lifesaving therapy for our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11th Dist., A Navy veteran and Bill co-sponsor. “With this new law, we are addressing the high cost barrier that prevents many from accessing these incredible dogs.”
More than 300 members of the House of Representatives endorsed the legislation, some persuading Sherrill to sign, who used a card with a picture of a golden retriever puppy to make their case. Sherrill was in the Oval Office on Wednesday when Biden signed the bill.
Under the law, nonprofits would work with the VA to develop programs to teach veterinarians how to train dogs, for example, to seat a veterinarian in an overwhelming crowd or to wake them up from a nightmare.
After training, the veteran who works with the dog can take the animal home with them.
Sherrill said a VA study in May showed that bringing veterans together with service dogs can be an effective treatment for PTSD. Between 11% and 30% of veterans suffer from PTSD, and an average of 20 veterinarians die from suicide each day, she said.
“By expanding the availability of service dogs to people with mental illnesses and providing dog training as part of veteran health programs, we expect this law to have a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of suffering servicemen, and even help reduce suicides of veterans, ”said Mike Bober, president and chief executive officer of the Joint Pet Industry Advisory Council
The legislation, HR1448, is known as Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) for the Veterans Therapy Act.
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Jonathan D. Salant can be reached at [email protected] Follow him at @JDSalant.
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