This week U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) delivered unanimous House passage of the bipartisan Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R. 4305). The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act will create a pilot program within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to give veterans access to treatment derived from working with service dogs. Representative Sherrill is a lead sponsor of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act alongside author Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH).
Specifically, the VA will partner with non-profit organizations working with veterans and service dogs to create work-therapy programs wherein veterans learn the art and science of training dogs. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may adopt their dogs to provide continuing 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.”
In November 2019, Representative Sherrill hosted a screening at the U.S. Capitol of “To Be of Service,” a documentary that highlights the transformational relationship between veterans and their service dogs, and follows the journey of veterans newly paired with a service dog. After the screening, veterans featured in the film spoke about their experiences with service dogs and called on Congress to pass the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act.