Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) has introduced the K-9 Companion Corps Act, legislation that establishes a federal grant program to encourage the use of assistance dogs by members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Bipartisan cosponsors for this bill include: Gerry Connolly (D-VA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Walter Jones (R-NC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Larson (D-CT) Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Don Young (R-AK). The bill also received support from local and national organizations.
"Nonprofits that train and provide assistance dogs to help our military and veterans are receiving more and more requests. Groups throughout the country--including Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs--train and provide dogs for returning soldiers and veterans but rely on fundraising and volunteer staff to meet the growing demand," said Congresswoman Hirono. "My bill would provide competitive grants to these groups so that they can fulfill their mission to assist the men and women who have served our nation so honorably."
Tens of thousands of soldiers and veterans are struggling to cope with physical or mental health disabilities. Assistance dogs help these men and women lead more independent lives by assisting with mobility and balance, retrieving and carrying objects, responding to sounds, getting help, and providing social interaction and companionship.
Trained dogs also offer therapeutic benefits to soldiers and veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by elevating their mood, building confidence, and reducing stress, all of which assist their transition back to civilian life.
Original cosponsors of the K-9 Companion Corps Act have also provided statements of their support:
John Garamendi (D-CA) "America's bravest heroes deserve the companionship of man's best friend. I'm proud to co-sponsor the K-9 Companion Corps Act, because America owes the service members and veterans who have been scarred by war every available opportunity to heal and rebuild their lives."
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) "Assistance dogs have improved the lives of countless veterans," said Hinchey (D-NY). "Not only do they help with mobility and balance, but they also provide the companionship and reassurance needed to make it through a difficult day. These wonderful animals, and the organizations that train them, are essential. That's why I'm glad to be a co-sponsor of the K-9 Companion Corps Act, which will help extend a helping paw to even more of our courageous men and women as they return home."
Walter Jones (R-NC) "For the past several years, I have worked with the Veterans Administration and service dog organizations to create the benefit of fully trained service dogs to our wounded veterans. I fully support the K-9 Companion Corps Act and its efforts to increase the availability of these wonderful animals to our nation's heroes."
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) "The men and women who paid a permanent price in their voluntary service to our nation deserve the very best health care and mental health care. The K-9 Companion Corps Act would provide dependable, loving, compassionate and nonjudgmental companion animals trained to help our soldiers readjust to civilian life. It would be good for soldiers and for their animal companions."
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) "For our veterans more than anyone, dog truly is man's (and woman's) best friend. By providing servicemembers with practical assistance but also comfort, loyalty and unconditional love, the K-9 Companion Corps would perform an invaluable service. I'm proud to join my friend, Congresswoman Hirono, in sponsoring H.R. 943."
Don Young (R-AK) "I am proud to be a cosponsor of the K-9 Companion Corps Act as a K-9 companion can be an instrumental part of recovery for a soldier that has been injured in battle or is suffering from PTSD. A small K-9 program has begun in the Anchorage area to serve local veterans with hopes of growing in the future. Grants for programs such as this are just another way we can and need to help our men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and I fully support their success."