WASHINGTON - Veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are receiving extra support in the form of a furry friend thanks to a pilot program from The Department of Veterans Affairs required under The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act.
The eight-week program gives vets experiencing PTSD a chance to train a service dog to help them manage their symptoms. Once they complete the program, the veteran can adopt the pup they helped train, Military.com reported.
This program is being offered at five VA medical centers in Anchorage, Alaska, Asheville, North Carolina, Palo Alto, California, San Antonio, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.
"Our pilot will help us explore the benefits of service dog training and give us the data we need to make recommendations to Congress on the way forward," VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. "There are many effective treatments for PTSD and we’re looking at service dog training as an adjunct to those options to ensure Veterans have access to resources that may improve their well-being and help them thrive."
Eligibility for veterans to take part in the VA program is based on three requirements. A veteran must be diagnosed with PTSD and enrolled in the VA healthcare system, and they have to be recommended by a clinician or VA mental healthcare provider, Military.com reported.
The PAWS Act, which was signed into law on Aug. 25, 2021, requires the VA has to conduct a five-year pilot program to provide canine training to eligible veterans diagnosed with PTSD as part of a health program, according to a release from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA’s service dog pilot program is one of many similar programs nationwide offering support to veterans. Last year, two organizations took part in a program that offers service dogs to 16 veterans across the country, FOX6 Milwaukee reported.
Paws of War, an organization supporting troops, veterans and first responders, is planning to train pups to become service or companion dogs. The group’s goal is to place each of the dogs with a veteran or first responder in need of special assistance.
K9 Partners for Patriots, a nonprofit organization based in Brookesville, Florida helps veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or military sexual trauma by partnering them with service dogs.
FOX13 Tampa, FOX6 Milwaukee, and FOX5 New York contributed to this story. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.