McGovern Pushes Legislation To Help Fund Service Dogs For Veterans

By Shujie Leng
BU Washington News Service

WASHINGTON–Trained service dogs can provide many therapeutic benefits to military veterans suffering from both physical wounds and post-traumatic stress syndrome, Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester said Tuesday – as he touted legislation he has introduced to provide funding for such training.

Earlier this year, McGovern visited the National Education for Assistance Dog Service, or NEADS, a nonprofit group based in West Boylston in Worcester County. On Tuesday, he told a Capitol Hill briefing that he organized that he was impressed by how service dogs helped injured veterans transition to civilian life.

“I’ve seen firsthand about what we are talking about today. We can do something about this. And it shouldn’t be that hard,” McGovern said during the briefing.

 In June, McGovern introduced his bill—the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act of 2013— directing the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Department to jointly establish a program for awarding competitive grants to nonprofit organizations such as NEADS. The grants would be directed to training service dogs to address the needs of veterans suffering both physical injuries and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The bill — which now has 20 co-sponsors, including one Republican – would authorize $5 million a year for each of the next five years. It defines “assistance dog” as a canine trained specifically to perform tasks intended to mitigate the effects of a disability.

According to John Moon, director of programs and communication at NEADS, it initially costs $1,500 per animal to acquire potential service dogs from breeders and another $25,000 to raise and train each dog. They are provided to veterans at no cost.

So far, NEADS has provided 57 service dogs to military veterans in Massachusetts, Moon said. Given the particular temperament required of such animals, about half of the dogs brought in for training are ultimately deemed not to be suitable for the task, he added.

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