Rutherford, Pappas, Waltz, Lawson, Stivers Reintroduce PAWS Act

March 3, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL-04) announced the reintroduction of H.R. 1022, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2021, 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 Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Michael Waltz (R-FL-06), Al Lawson (D-FL-05), and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15).

"Research from the VA has concluded that Service Dogs are a proven therapy for those suffering from PTSD,” said Rep. Rutherford. “With twenty veterans taking their own lives each day, we must do more to help those with PTSD and other service-connected forms of trauma. I am proud to reintroduce the PAWS Act to help our warfighters lead productive and successful lives once they return to civilian life.”

“When our nation’s heroes return home, they should have access to all the care they need to address the injuries they have sustained – both physical and emotional,” said Rep. Pappas. “We know that Service Dogs can provide tremendous support to veterans living with PTSD, and I am proud to introduce legislation alongside Congressman Rutherford that will pay for and provide Service Dogs to American veterans to help them recover and thrive.”  

“Congress has an obligation to do all it can to help veterans returning from overseas deployments who suffer from PTSD,” said Rep. Waltz. “By partnering with organizations to pair Service Dogs with veterans, we will save veteran lives and canine lives. The partnership provides solutions that are scientifically proven to improve PTSD symptoms.”

“For many of our returning veterans, often we see that the battle on the frontlines has turned into an inner battle at home,” said Rep. Lawson. “Our service men and women sacrifice so much for our freedom, and we must do our part to assist those dealing with invisible illnesses. Through the PAWS Act, these trained Service Dogs will help our nation’s heroes with their mental wellness and make transitioning from active duty to civilian life an easier feat.”

“I’ve met soldiers who served under my command in Operation Iraqi Freedom who have had their lives transformed by working with a Service Dog – they get their lives back,” said Rep. Stivers. “We owe it to our veterans to pursue any and all possible treatments, including unique treatments like this because we know that they work.”

“Making Service Dogs more accessible to veterans will ultimately empower our nation’s heroes to successfully reintegrate into civilian life,” said K9s For Warriors CEO Rory Diamond. “The PAWS Act would commit considerable resources towards properly training and pairing Service Dogs with veterans who would most benefit from them. We thank Congressman Rutherford for his continuing dedication to our nation’s veterans with the introduction of this bill.”

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.