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Politics

Veterans Can Train And Adopt Service Dogs Under A New Law Signed By Biden

Morgan, a military service dog, stands on her hind legs for her handler before a news conference for HR 1448, Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act outside the U.S. Capitol on May 13.
Morgan, a military service dog, stands on her hind legs for her handler before a news conference for HR 1448, Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act outside the U.S. Capitol on May 13.

A new program through the Department of Veterans Affairs aims to connect service dogs in training with veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

The effort was years in the making and became a reality when President Biden signed the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act into law on Wednesday during a ceremony attended by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

"We know service dogs are a proven life-changing and life-saving form of therapy for our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress," said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., in a statement.

"With this new law, we are addressing the high-cost barrier that prevents many from accessing these incredible dogs," Sherrill, a Navy veteran, added.

Under the law, the VA will partner with nonprofit organizations for a pilot program in which veterans will be able to train aspiring service dogs. The dogs will learn how to shield a veteran from an overwhelming crowd or wake them up if they're having a nightmare, lawmakers said.

At the end of the program, the veteran trainers may adopt their canine pupils.

As many as 30% of veterans who served in conflicts over the past several decades suffer from PTSD, and an average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day, the lawmakers said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Press 1 if you're a veteran.


This story first appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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