Federal Issue Brief

 S. 1838, VA Service Dog Training Pilot Program

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AVMA Position:

No Action


Introduced by Senator Max Baucus (MT), S. 1838 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.


  • The training would occur on premises of VA facilities.
  • Dogs participating may come from shelter or foster situations. 
  • Veterans must meet certain eligibility criteria. 
  • Must give special consideration when choosing VA location to sites in rural or highly-rural states.
  • Requirements for reporting on feasibility and advisability of extending or expanding program.


  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • There is no language requiring appropriate veterinary assessment and care for dogs selected for and enrolled in the program.


Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, legislative hearing occurred on June 27, 2012.

AVMA Contact:

Dr. Whitney L. Miller, Assistant Director, AVMA Governmental Relations at 202-289-3211.