WALNUT CREEK, CA (Sept. 11, 2021) — It’s National Service Dog Month, and folks at the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) are celebrating new successes.
We say that our Pets and Vets program is “saving both ends of the leash.” That’s because we identify dogs in animal shelters, who might have the necessary qualities to change a veteran’s life, and match them with veterans diagnosed with challenges such as PTSD, anxiety, agoraphobia and traumatic brain injuries.
The pairs train together for about a year to graduate as service dog teams with public access under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On Aug. 25, President Joe Biden signed the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act. This new law directs the Department of Veteran Affairs to create a five-year pilot program pairing veterans with service-related mental health challenges with canines training to be psychiatric service dogs.
This legislation shows an incredible accomplishment after many years of witnessing the significant therapeutic benefits of veterans with PTSD working with psychiatric service dogs.
Veteran participation in training
In a significant shift from previously proposed legislation, this bill promotes veterans’ participation in the training of their service dogs. Based on the success of the Pets and Vets training model, recently retired Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) – who first authored the legislation – sought ARF’s expertise while drafting the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act. We’ve seen additional benefits in this type of dual training, including emotional support, a deeper bond with the dog, and a greater sense of purpose, confidence and accomplishment.
It’s a huge step to have the VA recognize this as well, and we’re glad our experiences and achievements could assist in crafting legislation that could potentially help thousands of veterans and dogs across the country.
ARF’s Pets and Vets program plans to promote similar programs nationally through partnerships with animal shelters, veterans’ organizations and other non-profits. We recently completed the program’s national headquarters in Walnut Creek, which will host training for local veteran-service dog teams. It will also help those looking to duplicate the program for veterans and dogs in their communities.
The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act moves our country closer to providing those who have sacrificed so much the richer, fuller lives they deserve.
Would you like to be part of the heroic team that saves the lives of rescued dogs and cats? Can you share your talents to connect people and animals? ARF volunteers make a difference. For more information see website, www.arflife.org, or call (925) 256-1ARF.