PAWS Act seeks to help veterans with PTSD get service dogs

A bill introduced to the House of Representatives on Wednesday would create a program to help connect veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with service dogs.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), would establish a pilot program within the Veterans Administration. That program would provide a trained service dog to veterans who have severe levels of PTSD, and whose symptoms persist despite treatment. Under the bill the Veterans Administration would pay third-party dog training organizations for the dogs they provide to veterans in the program.

To maintain eligibility for the program, the veteran must see a VA primary care doctor or mental health professional quarterly.

The bill would authorize $27,000 for the VA to spend on each dog from an organization accredited by Assistance Dog International. It also includes VA health insurance for the dog. In total the PAWS Act allocates $10 million to fund the pilot program.

Corporal Cole Lyle, a major proponent of the bill who served six years in the Marine Corps, said Kaya, his service dog, helps him overcome the struggles of PTSD on a daily basis. “I deployed out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and served with ISAF forces in Helmand province,” he told theWashington Free Beacon. “The difficulties I had transitioning back into civilian life stemmed out of roughly the last two months of the deployment, when I was volunteering at an understaffed trauma hospital in my spare time on base. When I got home, I would have recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks.”

“Kaya is trained specifically to jump up in bed and wake me up from nightmares or to lick my hand or face to remind me to remain calm in the early stages of an anxiety attack, effectively neutralizing their ability to snowball.”

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