Association Letter to Committee on Veterans Affairs RE: PAWS Act
June 2, 2022
The Honorable Jon Tester The Honorable Jerry Moran
Chairman Ranking Member
Committee on Veterans Affairs Committee on Veterans Affairs
U.S. Senate U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Tester, Ranking Member Moran:
The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans (ASDPMV), a consortium of service dog organizations assisting veterans with PTSD, TBI, MST, and other mental and physical wounds of war, would like to express our concerns with Public Law 117-37.
With 15 member organizations producing over 40% of our nation’s service dogs for disabled veterans, we understand the challenges servicemembers face when seeking alternative care. This type of mission-based work therapy is widely recognized as beneficial for veterans suffering from these invisible disabilities, especially those who do not want conventional methods of treatment. Furthermore, recent studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Kaiser Permanente, and Purdue University have demonstrated that working with service dogs alleviates symptoms of PTSD, including better interpersonal relationships, lower risk of substance abuse, and better overall mental health. In fact, participants in the VA study who were paired with a service dog showed a 34.5% decrease in PCL-5 (Symptoms of PTSD) from baseline to study completion, showcasing the tangible benefits of the alternative treatment.
On August 25, 2021, President Biden signed into law the PAWS For Veterans Therapy Act, PL 117-37. At the outset of the bill introduction, Congressional intent was clear: to give veterans diagnosed with invisible wounds of war the opportunity to be paired with trained service dogs in order to experience the lifesaving, evidenced-based benefits they have to offer.
Unfortunately, the original intent and spirit of the law have been transmuted from a long-term, 24-hour treatment modality to a short-term, temporary therapy program. Simply training a dog for 1-2 hours per week has no evidence-based research to mitigate the symptoms of PTSD, TBI, or MST. In addition, the VA has determined that adoption of a dog “extends beyond VA providers’ scope of licensure, the VA Scope of Practice and their sphere of clinical expertise.” This means that the veteran will not have the opportunity to even adopt the dog as an emotional support animal after the pilot has concluded, much less be paired with a fully trained, 24-hour service dog as originally intended by Congress.
As such, we ask for your support to address our concerns with the program and align it back to what was originally intended by Congress. We appreciate your continued work on behalf of our nation’s servicemembers, veterans, and their families, and look forward to our continued partnership.
Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans
K9s For Warriors
Dog Tag Buddies
SemperK9 Assistance Dogs
Operation Freedom Paws
Patriotic Service Dog Foundation
K9 Partners for Patriots
Veterans K9s Solutions
Got Your Six Support Dogs
K9s on the Front Line
Pawsitivity Service Dogs
Labs for Liberty
Canines with a Cause
K-9 Caring Angels
Northwest Battle Buddies
Patriot K9s of Wisconsin