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Can VA Puppy Program Help Combat PTSD?


Last updated 4/26/2022 at 3:34pm | View PDF

The Department of Veterans Affairs has published its plan for starting up a pilot program for the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act. In the PAWS Act, the VA will do a five-year pilot program to train dogs as a means of assisting veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), with the veterans doing the training.

Five VA medical centers will be part of the pilot program: San Antonio; West Palm Beach, Florida; Anchorage, Alaska; Asheville, North Carolina; and Palo Alto, California.

There are three requirements for veterans to be eligible to join the pilot program: be enrolled in VA health care, be diagnosed with PTSD and get a recommendation from a VA mental health-care provider.

Veterans getting care from a non-VA provider will need to contact the VA facility where they get authorization for the non-VA care and ask about taking part in the pilot. Additionally, the veteran must have had an appointment for some type of care within three months of asking to join the program, and then continue with appointments every three months.

The VA would be required to provide the dogs to veterans with mental illnesses who do not have mobility problems with training provided by certified trainers. Veterans would not be allowed to be around the dogs unless the trainer is present, nor to use any shock collars.

At the end of training, the veteran can adopt the dog if the trainer believes it’s in the veteran’s best interest, and additional training will continue for the life of the dog. However, some of the training involves getting a dog ready to be a service animal for someone else, so a veteran might work with multiple dogs.

To read all the fine print about the dog program, go to the Federal Register ( and search for PAWS Act, then look for Implementation of the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act.

(c) 2022 King Features Synd., Inc.


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