What is the PAWS Act?

PAWS Act - Capitol Hill

Written by Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans

March 4, 2021

Discover why flea markets may not be the best environment for service dogs.

Learn about risks, distractions, and considerations for handlers.

1. Crowded Environment: Flea markets are often bustling with crowds, which can be overwhelming for a service dog. The dog may become stressed or anxious in such a busy atmosphere.

2. Distractions: Flea markets are filled with various sights, sounds, and smells that can distract a service dog from its duties. This could potentially compromise its ability to assist its handler effectively.

3. Unpredictable Behavior of Other Animals: Other visitors to the flea market may bring their pets along, which can lead to encounters with unfamiliar animals. This may pose a risk to the safety and focus of the service dog.

4. Risk of Injury: With so many people moving around and browsing items, there’s an increased risk of accidental tripping or stepping on the service dog, which could lead to injury.

5. Exposure to Unsanitary Conditions: Flea markets may not always maintain the cleanest environment, and the service dog may come into contact with unsanitary surfaces or substances.

6. Lack of Accommodation for the Dog: Flea markets may not be equipped to handle service dogs properly, such as providing suitable resting areas, water, or relief spots for the dog.

7. Potential Stress for the Dog: A flea market’s constant stimulation and unfamiliar surroundings could cause stress or discomfort for the service dog, which may affect its overall well-being and ability to perform its tasks.

Given these factors, it’s important for service dog handlers to carefully consider whether taking their dog to a flea market is truly necessary and in the best interest of the dog’s welfare and effectiveness in assisting its handler.

Current PAWS Act Bill Number

H.R. 1022.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act directs the VA to create a grant program that will pay and provide for Service Dogs to veterans suffering with severe PTSD through qualified nonprofit Service Dog providers for military veterans.

Write Your Congressman and Tell Them You Support the PAWS Act

The Purpose of the PAWS Act

The primary purpose of the PAWS Act is to prevent veteran suicide by the provision of a Service Dog as a complementary treatment option for veterans suffering from PTSD. Currently, the VA refuses to fund this treatment option that we know saves lives.

How Would the PAWS Act Work?

The PAWS Act recognizes that pairing a Service Dog with a veteran costs approximately $25,000, including training of the Service Dog, as well as training of the veteran with the Service Dog, and follow-up services and support. After an eligible veteran has been accepted by the qualifying Service Dog organization, the organization will apply to the VA for a grant of up to $25,000. If passed, this fully-funded program will enable veterans to receive lifesaving treatment sooner, and provide K9s For Warriors and similar nonprofits with the necessary funds to assist veterans in need of a Service Dog and immediately reduce waitlists.

Has the PAWS Act Previously Been Up for Vote?

Yes. The original bill was introduced in April 2015, and unfortunately, did not receive enough support for passing. The PAWS Act was then reintroduced in May 2017 and had 230 cosponsors in the House.

Congressman, John Rutherford (R) FL

Who Introduced the PAWS Act?

The previous House bill was H.R. 3101 and introduced by Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL-04) on June 5, 2019, and referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.  The current House bill, H.R. 1022, is also sponsored by Congressman Rutherford and backed by co-sponsors Rep. Waltz, Michael [R-FL-6] , Rep. Lawson, Al, Jr. [D-FL-5], Rep. Pappas, Chris [D-NH-1]  and Rep. Stivers, Steve [R-OH-15].

What is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Stance on Service Dogs?

Historically, the VA has denied that Service Dogs work to help heal veterans of military-related trauma. However, in February 2021, the VA released findings of their own study, which took nearly 10 years and $16M to complete – Purdue’s studies have required far less funding and timing. Results of the VA’s study found that veterans with PTSD displayed less suicidal ideation and improvement in PTSD symptoms when paired with a Service Dog versus those paired with an emotional support dog. It remains to be seen how and if the VA will change its policies towards Service Dogs in light of the findings.

How Will the PAWS Act of 2021 Increase Veteran Access to Service Dogs?

The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans is confident in our member organizations’ ability to adapt to meet the increased demand, and we are already strategically working to decrease our veterans’ wait time. We believe our member organizations will be able to grow and meet the increased demand with the additional funds provided by the passage of the PAWS Act.

Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans

Write Your Congressman to Support the PAWS Act?

Go to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and type in your zip code. Your state representatives will be displayed to you, and you can choose whom to contact by clicking on their name.

Example text:

I’m writing to voice my support of the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members Act. More than 20 veterans a day are dying by suicide, often because they don’t have access to effective treatment options.  Service dog organizations like such as those who are accredited members of the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans (ASDPMV) have already proven that service dogs are an effective treatment for recovery of PTSD, TBI, and Military Sexual Trauma, yet the VA healthcare system still refuses to recognize and provide this option.  We must do more to save the lives and honor the sacrifice of our heroes who returned home.  Service dogs help veterans heal.  When they heal, their families heal, and they return to their communities as productive citizens, pursuing higher education and re-entering the workforce, rather than living in isolation, or worse, seeing suicide as the only way out.  However, high quality service dogs come at a high price, one which most veterans could never afford on their own.  The average cost of a service dog, classified as medical equipment, is $27,000.  

Medication is not always the answer.  The servicemen and women who voluntarily fought for our freedom should not have to suffer even more after coming home because they can’t afford the treatment that is best for them. Please support this life-saving initiative that will give veterans the option of choosing a service dog to heal from their invisible wounds. Please vote “Yes.” Thank you for your time.


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