Taryn Zard, Staff Writer
Dogs are a man’s best friend; people turn to them for comfort when everything around them feels crazy. Therapy dogs are not a newfound concept; the idea of furry creatures providing comfort has been around for quite a while.
Lately, there has been a rise in awareness for service dogs and those that require their assistance. Individuals who need extra help, as well as organizations—including work and schools—have started to reach out for help from service dogs and have begun to widely accept them on the premises. Some places have gone as far as to have one or more days a year dedicated to having service dogs come in and provide a therapeutic outlet for those under duress.
The Puppies for Veterans Therapy Act, or PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, is a law that is in the midst of implementation. On Feb. 5, 2020 H.R. 4305 passed the House hearing unanimously to launch a five-year pilot program for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The idea behind this new legislation is to provide soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and post-deployment disorders, with better access to therapy dogs.
With a way to help soldiers by providing better access to service animals, steps have, and should continue to be made, in order to give further access to these veterans.
The Lacey area, including Saint Martin’s University, are big proponents for veterans, especially with Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and Fort Lewis so close.
Last semester, Saint Martin’s had a therapy dog night around exam week for students to come and alleviate their stress. The therapy dog night received a huge turnout of people who wanted a creative and harmless outlet for reducing their stress and anxiety. There are already organizations out there that have provided wounded veterans and those suffering from an emotional toll with therapy dogs, and results have proven time and time again the benefits that come with owning a service dog.
One organization that has made an effort to impact the lives of soldiers is WarHawk PTSD Service Dogs, founded in January 2019 by Kevin “WarHawk” Doncaster, a United States Marine Corps Veteran with seven years of combined Middle East service. The goal behind WarHawk is to provide those that have experienced emotional trauma with service dogs at minimal cost, “with an emphasis on military veterans, police, firefighters or others who have experienced significant emotional trauma.”
After experiencing first-hand the challenges that go alongside navigating life with PTSD and the comfort and support that a service dog brought him, Doncaster was motivated to start a non-profit to assist more veteran’s with receiving service dogs. The hope behind the new law is to provide not only more access to service dogs for those in need, but also to provide more training opportunities for the animals in question.