By Wayne Pacelle
So many veterans have returned to America from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones with post-traumatic stress disorder. I am so grateful for, and humbled by, the service and sacrifice of these young men and women to our nation. When their service results in mental turmoil or physical disability, we have a duty to help them cope and to treat their needs.
It’s no surprise to see increased attention being paid to the use of animals, especially dogs, in therapeutic roles. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering H.R. 198, the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. This measure would create a pilot program that trains dogs for use in service roles, first by having veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions work with the animals, and then through the assignment of dogs to physically disabled alumni of our armed forces. One feature we at The HSUS especially like is H.R. 198’s provision for the use of shelter dogs in the program.
Now, just in time for Memorial Day comes a new initiative from Dog Bless You, the online community created by HSUS friend and supporter Charles Annenberg Weingarten, to connect up to 100 service dogs with returning soldiers in need. Between Memorial Day and July 4, for every 5,000 “likes” registered on its Facebook community page, Dog Bless You will provide the resources needed to fund a service dog to help our veterans.
You can help by “liking” the Dog Bless You Facebook community page, a site for photos, videos, and personal stories about animals.
Memorial Day is a storied holiday on which we reflect and honor the many sacrifices that millions of Americans have made in the best interests of our nation. This year, you can help to make it that much more meaningful for a veteran who might benefit from the companionship of a dog.