Federal Issue Brief

 H.R. 198 Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act

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AVMA Position:

No Action 

Summary:

Introduced by Congressman Michael Grimm (NY-13th), H.R. 198 directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to carry out a pilot program for assessing the effectiveness of addressing post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms through a therapeutic medium of service dog training and handling for veterans with disabilities. 

Background:

  • The training would occur on premises of VA facilities.
  • Dogs participating may come from shelter or foster situations.
  • Program would include lecture style and hands-on training and grooming of dogs.
  • Veterans must meet certain eligibility criteria.

Justification:

  • While the AVMA believes in the spirit of the legislation and supports the use of therapy dogs in certain circumstances, there is a noted absence of language that would ensure the well-being of the dogs engaged in the programs.
  • Use of "service" and "therapy" in relation to the dogs involved in this program lacks definition as well as consistency with established definitions for these terms.
  • The bill does not quantify the number of dogs that would be involved in the pilot program.
  • Requirements for the position of "director of service dog training" are not sufficient to ensure appropriate experience in not only training service The bill does not include information what will happen to the dogs after the pilot program is concluded. After care or post-program placement into home environments should be addressed.
  • Lacks an appropriate description for "certified service dog training instructor."
  • There is no language requiring appropriate veterinary assessment and care for dogs selected for and enrolled in the program.
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Current Status:

Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, legislative hearing occurred on July 25, 2011. 

 

AVMA Contact:

Dr. Whitney Miller, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations Division, 202-289-3211