Northeast Florida Congressman John Rutherford has introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide service dogs to military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It's called the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act of 2019.
Incoming Jacksonville City Councilman and K-9s for Warriors CEO Rory Diamond said Wednesday service dogs can make life bearable for people struggling with PTSD.
“The task they’re trained to do are to wake warriors up out of a nightmare or night-terror. They will interrupt a panic attack in a store or a school or at work. The dog can also stand in front of a warrior and create space or look behind a warrior and let them know someone is coming up behind him or her.”
Diamond said the bill would requires the Veterans Administration to issue $25,000 vouchers to veterans who need the dogs. The money would cover training and other expenses.
“You know a dog is about 50% of the program. The other half is making sure that there's an entire support structure around the veterans, so they know how to use it. And they have someone to go to when they're having a problem of any sort,” said Diamond.
To weed out disreputable dog trainers, Diamond said the bill would require them to meet the standards of the Association of Service Dog Providers.
He said if Congress approves the bill it would likely take a couple of years to get the voucher program up and running.