- Military veterans suffering PTSD have benefitted greatly from having a dog specially trained to help with anxiety and depression.
- Now the Veteran’s Administration is starting a pilot program to provide dogs to more veterans who want them.
It’s well been established that military veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from living with service dogs who ease their anxiety and depression and help with daily tasks.
Nonprofits such as K9s For Warriors, Dogs2DogTags, Pets for Patriots, and Rescue Dogs Rescue Soldiers have been trying to meet this need for years. And since many of these organizations rescue pets from high-kill shelters to train, it’s been a windfall for homeless pets as well. The Healthy Paws Foundation has supported all these organizations with donations in recent years.
Now the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress, and President Joe Biden are acknowledging the benefits of specially trained service dogs for veterans with a new law signed by the president last week.
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act — PAWS — requires the VA to establish a five-year pilot program to provide service dogs and training to veterans with PTSD.
“This amazing bill will help connect more veterans with service dogs and have big impacts on improving veteran’s mental health and wellbeing,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., a Navy veteran and a co-sponsor of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support.
The law should give a big financial boost to the nonprofits that are accredited service dog training organizations, as the government will be partnering with them to train and match dogs with veterans.
“This bill is a critical step in combatting veteran suicide, and we’re confident in the path ahead for Service Dogs ultimately becoming a covered VA benefit to veterans with PTSD,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors.
Here are some sobering facts about veterans and PTSD, according to the VA and K9s for Warriors:
- From 2005 to 2018, nearly 90,000 veterans died by suicide, according to the most recent report from the VA.
- As many as one in five veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have PTSD, according to the VA.
- The coronavirus pandemic has caused even more stress for veterans, with calls to the veteran’s crisis line surging by more than 15 percent last year.
- For some people, PTSD can be a lifelong struggle.
And now the good news…
- A report released last year by the VA found that participants paired specifically with service dogs trained for PTSD had fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations within the first 18 months compared to people with emotional support animals.
- 82 percent of veteran graduates of K9s for Warriors report a reduction in medication.
- 92 percent of veteran graduates report a reduction in suicide ideation.
- K9s for Warriors has rescued more than 1,300 dogs. Pets for Patriots has rescued more than 3,500 dogs and cats.
- Military members and veterans with a service dog experienced a decrease in overall PTSD symptoms, including reduced levels of depression, and improved quality of life, physiological wellbeing, life satisfaction, and resilience, according to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute.
Helping soldiers live more healthy and productive lives and saving hundreds of shelter dogs — this new law sounds like a win-win to us.