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ANNAPOLIS, Md. - On Wednesday the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act was passed in the in the U.S. House.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement a 5-year pilot program that would assess the effectiveness of using service dogs to help veterans. The pilot would address post-deployment mental health and PTSD and would actually have veterans training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Read the full bill here.
Under the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act the VA would work with non-profit organizations to create a work therapy program. Veterans would learn how to train the dogs.
At the end of the training the Veteran can choose to adopt their dog or provide more therapy.
“Researchers, doctors, and veterans report the same thing: service dogs are a transformational form of therapy for our veterans with PTSD,” said Representative Mikie Sherrill. “Service dogs help create bonds of trust and love with veterans, soothing the invisible wounds of war. Right now, it is incredibly expensive and difficult for veterans to access the care that service dogs can provide. I’m proud that the House overwhelmingly supported this mission-based therapy and I thank Representative Stivers for his tireless leadership on this issue. We were able to get more than 300 co-sponsors for this bill — proof that we can work together to make sure veterans get the treatment they deserve.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, lawmakers are working on a series of Veteran related bills, including one related to support animals.
Senator Bryan Simonaire from Anne Arundel County and others are supporting legislation to give back to veterans. Senator Simonaire has seen how therapeutic pets can be for veterans. That's why he want's to introduce a bill to make it easier and more affordable to get a pet, "That would alleviate the adoption fee if they would go to a county or government animal facility and they can get an animal without the fees as well."