Wagging Support For Wounded Warriors Service Dog Act

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Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern recently appeared on Capitol Hill to gather support for the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act, a bill he introduced last year, and had some very special guests appear with him.

He was joined by Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Garvey, and Garvey’s very special service dog, Liberty, as well as Gloria Stoga, the founder of Puppies Behind Bars, and they campaigned Capitol Hill looking for support for the bill.

Puppies Behind Bars is a program that allows prison inmates to train Labrador Retrievers to be service dogs for law enforcement agencies, people with disabilities and veterans.

Related: Top 10 Service Dog Breeds

These service dogs are especially important to those military veterans who suffer from PTSD, as typically they don’t qualify for benefits that would help obtain and care for service dogs that others who may suffer from more obvious disabilities, such as visual/hearing or mobility impairments may receive.  The bill will not only help veterans get service dogs for PTSD, but help them care for them with assistance with expenses that accompany service dog care.

The need for service dogs in the last ten years has grown exponentially, as estimates maintain that while over 40,000 service members have been physically wounded in Afghanistan, as many as 10 times that number may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The dogs trained by Puppies Behind Bars are taught how to help their owner with symptoms of PTSD by performing a known calming behavior like licking their human’s face or trying to get their human to pet them and focus on their soft fur.

Related: Bayer Provides Free Health Care to K9 For Warriors Service Dogs

The bill will annually supply five million dollars of grant money to non-profit organizations like Stoga’s. Puppies Behind Bars not only trains service dogs for military members and disabled veterans, but also serves as a vital part of rehabilitation for inmates as well.  The inmates find purpose in their training of the dogs and the dogs in turn help veterans lead lives filled with more independence and social mobility.

For veterans like Garvey, who credits Liberty with being a grounding and calming rock, this is paramount to their own personal rehabilitation post-war as well.  The dogs are trained and know more than 90 commands, some of which allow them to give freedom to veterans who have lost limbs by doing things we often take for granted–turning off lights, opening doors, etc.  The dogs are even trained to dial 911 emergency services on a special phone.

Congressman McGovern says that for our honored veterans, the service dogs are miracles, and can change the course of post-war life.

And we agree…nothing changes your life for the better like the love and companionship of a dog, but in these special circumstances, even more so.