Veterans and Members of Congress Come Together for PAWS Act
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on several important bills to help veterans once they have returned from active duty service. As a veteran with 25 years of experience—including leadership roles—in combat and peacetime alike, I was proud to stand with Members of Congress, veterans, the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) at a press conference, held just before the hearing, which was streamed on Facebook Live (and can be viewed here).
PIJAC, which is the advocacy and legislative voice of the responsible pet trade, joined these leaders in supporting the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, H.R. 2327. If signed into law, the bill would launch a pilot grant program for the training and provision of service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
Three veterans spoke at the press conference about how service dogs have improved their lives, and in the case of one married father of three who “made an attempt on my own life” in 2012, the lives of their loved ones. HABRI executive director Steve Feldman pointed to the science underlying the experiences of these servicemembers, noting that the National Institute of Health “is now going into full clinical trials” on the benefits of service dogs based upon a small initial study funded by HABRI.
Under the PAWS Act, qualified organizations will receive federal grants to train dogs that will help veterans regain independence and health. These dogs will help strengthen veterans’ families—and will serve as one more tool in the military’s fight against PTSD.
I applaud the 200 sponsors of the PAWS Act, the Members who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference and hearing, and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Dr. Phil Roe and Ranking Member Tim Walz for holding the hearing. As Steve said, it’s time to move forward and bring this powerful new tool to bear for veterans.
Robert Likins is the director of government affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). PIJAC is the legislative and advocacy voice for the responsible pet trade.