ConnectLocal.News would be very interested in speaking with any organization wishing to become involved in the PAWS for Veterans Therapy program, and with any veteran who either currently uses a therapy animal for PTSD, or plans on applying for the PAWS program.
During today’s session of the U.S. House of Representatives, legislators passed H.R. 4305 – PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act. The bill, which has received strong bipartisan support, will create a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help individuals with post-deployment health disorders by pairing them with dogs to train as service animals, explained Humane Society spokesman Sara Amundson.
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act will “expand opportunities for veterans to get involved with training and adopting service dogs, leading to better lives for both the animals and the people helping them,” Amundson said.
Under the stipulations of the program, the VA is to provide grants to nonprofit entities that teach veterans how to train service dogs. Once the program is completed, veterans will have the opportunity to adopt the dog they have trained for ongoing therapy.
“An alarming number of veterans and current service members face an invisible and formidable enemy in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health challenges, Amundson added. “Therapy centered on productive and satisfying employment has also been shown to successfully lower depression, anxiety, anger, sleep disturbances and alcohol and substance abuse, as well as enhance interpersonal relationships.”
Once the service dogs are trained, they can be invaluable companions for veterans. They often alert their owners to PTSD triggers, such as crowded areas or unanticipated risks. They can also help to reduce their handlers’ anxiety by providing security and a calming effect. And any dog breed is fit to serve, including Labradors, golden retrievers, mixed breeds and animals rescued from shelters.