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Biden signs bill to pair veterans with puppies to fight PTSD and reduce suicides

puppies (James Brooks/Flickr)

Legislation to teach military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder how to train service dogs and then to let them adopt the animals has beensigned into law by President Joe Biden.

The bill, allowing puppies and veterans to overcome the partisan divides in Congress, cleared the Senate earlier this month after passing the House in May. It sets up a five-year pilot program under the Division of Veterans Affairs.

“We know service dogs are a proven life changing and lifesaving form of 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 House members co-sponsored the legislation, some of them convinced to sign on by Sherrill, who used a card featuring a picture of a Golden Retriever puppy to make her case. Sherrill was in the Oval Office Wednesday when Biden signed the bill.

Under the legislation, nonprofit organizations would work with the VA to develop programs to teach vets how to train dogs to do things like giving a vet space in an overwhelming crowd or waking hem up from a nightmare.

After training, the veteran working with the dog can take the animal home.

Sherrill said a VA study in May showed that matching veterans with service dogs can be an effective treatment for PTSD. Between 11% and 30% of veterans suffer from PTSD, and on the average of 20 vets die by suicide each day, she said.

“By expanding the availability of service dogs to include those with mental illnesses and providing for canine training as part of veteran health programs, we anticipate that this law will have a substantial positive impact on the health and well-being of suffering military personnel, and even help mitigate veteran suicides,” said Mike Bober, president and chief executive of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council

The legislation, H.R.1448, is known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act.


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