Rutherford Introduces the PAWS Act

June 5, 2019
Press Release
Bipartisan Legislation to Pair Service Dogs with Veterans Suffering from PTSD

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Congressman John Rutherford (FL-04) introduced H.R. 3103, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2019, which will increase access to service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The PAWS Act establishes a competitive grant program through the Department of Veterans Affairs for organizations, such as K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra, to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD. Rutherford joined in this effort with Representatives Al Lawson (FL-05), Michael Waltz (FL-06) and Gil Cisneros (CA-39).

“It is heartbreaking that twenty veterans take their own lives each day,” said Rutherford. “We must do more to help those with PTSD and other service-connected forms of trauma. Providing service dogs to veterans is a proven therapy for PTSD, but for many, the cost associated with training and raising these animals is too great. The PAWS Act will support organizations that pair service dogs with veterans to help our warfighters lead productive and successful lives once they return to civilian life.”

“Oftentimes, when veterans return to civilian life, they return with severe trauma, including mental health issues,” said Lawson. “Through the PAWS Act, these trained service animals could help to ameliorate the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. We all have a role to play in taking care of our servicemembers for the sacrifices they make for our nation.”

“There’s no denying the emotional and psychological benefits dogs have on humans but for our veterans, that connection is even more impactful,” said Waltz. “I recently met with veterans in my district who told me they had significantly reduced their medications or no longer needed them because of the love and support of their service dogs. This type of therapy can be life-saving for our veterans and I’m hopeful this legislation will set our American heroes up to live happy, healthy lives.”

“Partnering our veterans that are combating PTSD with a carefully selected, highly-trained canine companion has had proven emotional and psychological benefits,” said Cisneros. “Service dogs are chosen for their innate ability to understand and intuitively respond to the hopelessness and fear that many of our veterans face when dealing with the crippling effects of PTSD. Our veterans deserve the ability to lead healthy lives and our four legged heroes are ready to make a real difference for them.”

PAWS Act Summary:

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will distribute grants, not to exceed $25,000, to eligible organizations to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD. To be eligible, a nonprofit organization must provide service dogs to veterans with PTSD, meet the publicly available National Standard of the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, and maintain expertise in the unique needs of veterans with PTSD. Eligible veterans must be enrolled in the VA system and receive a PTSD diagnosis by a qualified health care provider. The program is currently capped at $10,000,000 from Fiscal Year 2019 through Fiscal Year 2022.