“As a veteran, and an American,
I am thrilled that this legislation has passed the House,
And I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass it without delay,
So that it can be signed into law, and allow us to begin
Providing assistance to our returning veterans.”
Congressman Michael Grimm, N.Y.
On October 10th, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a package of veterans’ health care legislation (H.R. 2074), and included in the final bill was the ‘Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act’ (H.R. 198), introduced by Congressman Michael Grimm of New York, which will help pair vets with pets, and is good for both soldier and canine.
This legislation would create a pilot program for training canines as a form of therapy to help treat our military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment mental health conditions, and the dogs selected for participation could come from America's animal shelters. After training, they would become certified service dogs.
Rep. Grimm, a Marine combat veteran from Operation Desert Storm, said in a press release, “As a veteran, and an American, I am thrilled that this legislation has passed the House, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass it without delay, so that it can be signed into law and allow us to begin providing assistance to our returning veterans.”
The bond between people and animals is a strong one—and can even be a healing one. Pets are good for both our emotional and our physical health, and studies show that having a pet can lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Caring for a companion animal also provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and lessens feelings of loneliness and isolation in people of all ages.
For our wounded warriors and disabled veterans, caring for a pet can also help them to re-enter society, and can minimize their stress and depression. Service dogs can also reduce the suicide rate among our veterans, and provide other critical help—such as letting them know when it’s time to take medication, waking them from terrifying nightmares, or detecting changes in their breathing, perspiration, or scent, to ward off panic attacks. Such benefits can even decrease the number of veteran hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.
And Congressman Grimm’s legislation also requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to “consider dogs residing in animal shelters or foster homes for participation in this program.” This is not only good news for America’s homeless canines that might otherwise be euthanized, but it also has the potential to bring a more fiscally sound approach to this program and save tax dollars, as purpose-bred dogs cost as much as $50,000 per animal.
Our veterans need and deserve every opportunity that our nation can provide them to heal. And this innovative legislation gives some wonderful dogs in America’s animal shelters a chance to live and to serve, by helping to heal the stresses and wounds that so many of our soldiers now battle when they come home.
Please contact your Senators and ask them to pass this bill — it’s a way to not only support the valiant men and women who serve our country, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to give a second chance at life to many loyal and deserving canines that now end up in America’s animal shelters today, through no fault of their own.