Service Dogs for Veterans

Contact Your Members of Congress

Urge the Senate to enact S. 613, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act. The House of Representatives approved H.R. 1448 on May 12, with strong bipartisan support. It is time for the Senate to act.

The bill establishes a five-year pilot program allowing veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to work with service dogs. After graduating from training, the veteran can adopt his or her newly-certified canine partner to provide continuous treatment. The Department will implement and evaluate the pilot program, and determine the feasibility and advisability of expanding the pilot program to address mental health conditions other than PTSD.

Eligible veterans would have to be enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) patient enrollment system and recommended by a qualified health-care provider or clinical team. The pilot program would ensure the program is carried out by at least five VA medical centers located in geographically diverse areas.

The VA would enter into agreements with nonprofit groups to implement the program. Those entities would have to: certify they are an accredited service dog training organization; provide veterans with training from a certified service dog training instructor; prohibit participant access to a dog without supervision; train dogs to develop skills unique to the veterans’ needs; offer follow-up training support for veterans who choose to adopt for the remainder of the dog’s life; and use positive reinforcement training, agreeing not to use shock or prong collars.

Veterans could adopt a dog that they trained if they decide, in consultation with a health-care provider, that adoption is in their best interest. It is important to make certain that participating in the program wouldn’t prevent veterans from receiving other forms of VA medical care to treat PTSD.