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PAWS for Veterans bill pairs vets with service dogs

Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata
A special pilot program for mental health treatment
Source: Media release from Cong. Uifaatali Amata's office

Washington, D.C. — Thursday, Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata welcomed House passage of H.R. 1448, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act. Amata is an original cosponsor and supported a similar effort last Congress.

This unique therapy bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), pairs Veterans and service dogs to treat mental illness. Similar legislation is under consideration in the Senate.

The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, will create a special pilot program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to give veterans access to treatment for mental illness through working with service dogs. Building on their successes, the VA will partner with non-profit organizations working with veterans and service dogs to create more work-therapy programs. Veterans learn the art and science of training dogs, giving them the benefit of a new mission and new skills, while gaining proven personal health benefits.

Upon completion of the program, the veterans may then choose to adopt their dogs, send their trained dog to help someone else, or choose to take on another dog to train.

“This therapy has proven benefits,” said Congresswoman Amata. “A service dog in training helps the Veteran, who trains a valuable dog to help others, or ends up keeping the dog for personal wellbeing. Congratulations to my friend Congressman Stivers for his championing of this good bill for our Veterans.”

Studies by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University indicate a host of benefits from working with service dogs, including alleviating PTS symptoms, improving interpersonal relationships, lowering substance abuse risk, reducing suicide risk, and boosting overall mental health.