On February 11, the PAWS Act was reintroduced to the House, a bold call to the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) for action — and funding.
The PAWS Act: What is it?
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act is sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford [R-FL-4] and backed by co-sponsors Rep. Michael Waltz [R-FL-6], Rep. Al Lawson Jr. [D-FL-5], Rep. Chris Pappas [D-NH-1] and Rep. Steve Stivers [R-OH-15]. The bill calls for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to run a grant program that will supply veterans with the funds needed to obtain a Service Dog.
Pairing a veteran with a Service Dog can cost up to $25,000 — including training, follow-up services, and support. K9s For Warriors covers all of these costs for our Warriors, but we need help. The PAWS Act will allow veterans to apply for a grant through Veterans Affairs to cover the necessary costs for these services. This will allow qualifying Service Dog organizations like K9s For Warriors to serve more veterans.
This grant will permit broader and speedier access to care, both of which are critical when it comes to treatment of PTSD and mental illness among our nation’s veterans. With the COVID pandemic creating increased spans of isolation, eliminating barriers between Warriors and treatment is more crucial than ever.
The PAWS Act has been introduced to the House in previous years, but the VA believed more scientific proof was needed to illustrate the use of Service Dogs in mitigating symptoms related to PTSD. With recently conducted research by Purdue University and the VA itself, we now have scientific proof:
In a revolutionary scientific study, K9s For Warriors partnered with Purdue University to examine whether Service Dogs significantly decrease PTSD symptoms in veterans.
Researchers collected saliva samples from participants to measure cortisol levels (“the stress hormone”) and found that PTSD-sufferers who had a Service Dog produced cortisol levels close to those of a standard healthy adult. These findings helped prove the concrete effectiveness of the Warrior/Service Dog bond.
“The research we have conducted at Purdue demonstrates that veterans suffering from PTSD who are paired with Service Dogs showed significantly lower symptoms related to PTSD,” said Dr. Maggie O'Haire, Associate Professor, Center for the Human-Animal Interaction at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.
How to Help
Not only can you help share our mission online— retweet, like, and share on social media — you can make tangible, legislative change happen.
Follow these simple steps:
1. Go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and type in your zip code to find your local state representative.
2. Click on the provided representatives for further contact info.
3. Copy and paste the below email statement and email your representative, or use our suggested script to call.
4. To tweet at your representative, click here to find your representative's Twitter handle, listed in alphabetical order (by last name).
Here's what you can say:
Twitter statement: I’m asking @_________ to support the PAWS Act, H.R. 1022 on behalf of our veterans. This life-saving bill would give veterans access to Service Dogs, a proven method to help combat PTSD. Please sponsor the PAWS Act and vote “yes” when the bill is heard. #PassThePaws
Hello, my name is (your name), and I'm calling because I support the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act, H.R. 1022, the PAWS Act. Roughly 20 veterans per day die by suicide, often because they don't have access to effective treatment. Medication is not always the answer. Our government owes them a choice in their recovery from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma. The servicemen and women who voluntarily fought for our freedom shouldn't have to fight for their healing. Please support this life-saving initiative and sponsor the PAWS Act and vote "yes" when the bill is heard. Thank you for your time.
Email statement (copy & paste):
Hello Mr./Mrs. (representative's name),
I'm writing to voice my support of the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, H.R. 1022.
It has been previously introduced by Congressman John Rutherford but was halted by the House Veterans Affairs Committee. With roughly 20 veterans per day dying by suicide, it simply doesn’t make sense that the committee tasked with protecting them denies what is now proven to be a life-saving option to mitigate their PTSD: Service Dogs. Service Dog organizations like K9s For Warriors have already scientifically proven that Service Dogs help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, yet the VA healthcare system still refuses to recognize this. We must do more to save the lives and honor the sacrifice of our military heroes.
Service Dogs help veterans heal. When they heal, their families heal, and they return to their communities as productive citizens, pursuing higher education and re-entering the workforce, rather than living in isolation, or worse, seeing suicide as the only way out. However, high quality Service Dogs come at a high price, one which most veterans could never afford on their own. The average cost of a Service Dog is $25,000.
Medication is not always the answer. The servicemen and women who voluntarily fought for our freedom should not have to fight to heal because they simply can't afford the treatment that is best for them. Please support this life-saving initiative that will give veterans the option of choosing a Service Dog to heal from their invisible wounds. Please sponsor the PAWS Act and vote "yes" when the bill is heard. Thank you for your time.
From Us to You
The VA now states that roughly 20 veterans per day die by suicide, and that is simply unacceptable in our eyes. Here at K9s For Warriors, we strive to save the lives of both veterans and rescue dogs, and we can only accomplish this mission with your help and support. We want to sincerely thank you for your time, love, and caring hearts.
Let’s go make some real change happen.