WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) reintroduced the bipartisan Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act in the House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 2625, would create a competitive grant program for nonprofits that train service dogs for use by veterans. It defines the term “assistance dog” to mean a dog specifically trained to perform physical tasks to mitigate the effects of a disability. This bill authorizes $25 million over the space of five years.
“With so many veterans returning from war bearing both physical and emotional scars, we must do all we can to provide treatment that works,” Congressman McGovern said. “I have been honored to work with NEADS and so many other partners to support the extraordinary work they and others are doing to help veterans in need. It is my sincere hope that through this program, we can better connect our veterans with service dogs in an effort to ease their transition into civilian life.”
In recent years, Congressman McGovern has made several visits to the nonprofit National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) campus in Princeton, MA. On these visits, Congressman McGovern has learned about how service dogs are helping to treat veterans with physical disabilities as well as individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Assistance dogs are helping service men and women lead more independent lives, assisting with mobility and balance, retrieving and carrying objects, responding to sounds, getting help, and providing social interaction and companionship. Trained dogs also offer many therapeutic benefits to soldiers and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) by elevating their moods, building confidence, and reducing stress, all of which ease the transition back into civilian life.
Through the Appropriations process, this program has already received $11 million over the past three years. With this money, nonprofit groups like NEADS have trained over 200 service dogs and paired them with veterans in need. If passed into law, the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act would fund this program for the next five years.
The Director of Development at NEADS, Cathy Zemaitis, commented, “the Wounded Warriors Service Dog legislation will enable legitimate Service Dog providers the opportunity to better serve the veteran community. This important program will allow veterans with physical disabilities as well as those diagnosed with PTSD realize increased independence and the opportunity to increasingly engage in their community. This legislation will bring about a positive impact on all veterans who require the assistance of a highly trained Service Dog.”
The bill has 29 original cosponsors, including U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). It has been endorsed by the American Legion and the Animal Welfare Institute.