Rep. Tony Gonzales Introduces Legislation to Provide Canine Therapy Support for CBP Personnel

Rep. Tony Gonzales (TX-23) introduced the PEARL Act. The PEARL Act supports Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to address mental health challenges at the agency by providing therapy dogs to CBP personnel. Since 2007, over 150 Border Patrol Agents and CBP employees have died by suicide. In January 2023, CBP launched the Support Canine Program, which aims to mitigate the spike in mental health crises among CBP personnel. If enacted, the PEARL Act would establish a pilot program through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to adopt dogs from local animal shelters and enhance the Support Canine Program.

“I introduced the PEARL Act to ensure our CBP personnel have additional support during this unprecedented crisis at our borders. These men and women work long hours year-round and face enormous challenges head-on,” said Rep. Tony Gonzales. “By improving access to canine therapy support, this legislation will give our law enforcement one more tool to improve mental health outcomes at CBP. I am proud to be joined by a bipartisan group of my colleagues in Congress who support the hardworking men and women who defend our borders every day.”

The PEARL Act is cosponsored by Reps. Michael McCaul (TX-10), Lou Correa (CA-46), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Morgan Luttrell (TX-08), Don Davis (NC-01),  Nancy Mace (SC-01), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), and Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27).

“Our border patrol agents at the southern border witness countless human tragedies during every shift they take — from medical emergencies to human trafficking,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  “It’s no wonder they’re experiencing a severe mental health crisis, as several agents told me on my recent trip to McAllen. I am proud to co-sponsor the PEARL Act to support these heroes and provide the necessary resources to address the psychological battles they face as they fight to protect our homeland.”

“Those working on our nation’s frontlines to keep our border safe, secure, and humane put their lives on the line each and every day to protect our communities, and they deserve our support,” Rep. Lou Correa said, an original co-sponsor of the legislation and the top Democrat on the House Border Security and Enforcement Subcommittee. “They’re forced to work in tough conditions and keep up with increasing demand, and this program has shown promise to increase staff morale and allow them to better deliver on their promise to keep our homeland safe. This is a strong step in the right direction—not just for those serving, but the communities they serve, too.”

“Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers provide an invaluable service to the United States, and ensuring we take care of them is of paramount importance. I’m proud to co-sponsor the PEARL Act, and to give back and provide for the law enforcement officers who have given so much for us,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito.

“As our frontline Border Patrol agents continue to face unprecedented conditions at the southern border, we must ensure they are supported with the proper mental health resources that allow them to do their jobs well,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar. “That is why I worked with Congressman Gonzales last year on the Appropriations Committee to secure critical funding for suicide prevention and workforce wellness efforts within CBP. Today, I am proud to introduce the PEARL Act alongside Congressman Gonzales to strengthen the therapy dog program within DHS and provide needed mental health support to our Border Patrol agents.”

“Due to President Biden’s ongoing border crisis, our Customs and Border Patrol Agents are more overwhelmed than ever before, especially as cartel activity continues to skyrocket. Tragically, this has led to a steep decline in the mental health of our agents and we need effective solutions to address this obstacle and prevent it from worsening,” said Rep. Morgan Luttrell. “My friend and colleague, Rep. Gonzales, has introduced the PEARL Act, which would establish a pilot program supporting CBP’s efforts to obtain dogs for their Canine Support Program through adoption at local animal shelters. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to help ensure our border agents receive the support they need.”

“The border crisis has left Customs and Border Protection personnel overworked and overwhelmed,” said Rep. Don Davis. “As they face historic levels of drug seizures and migrant crossings, the least we can do is provide them a helping hand, or in this case, a helping paw, to ease their trauma and ensure morale stays high.”

“By facilitating the adoption of therapy dogs from local shelters, we're not only providing essential emotional support for our CBP workforce but also offering a loving home to shelter dogs,” said Rep. Nancy Mace. “The PEARL Act is a win-win for our nation—combining compassion with practicality, and reminding us that sometimes, the best companions come with four legs and a whole lot of heart.”

Background on the PEARL Act:

  • The PEARL Act would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security and Commissioner of CBP to establish a pilot program to focus CBP’s efforts for obtaining these dogs through adoption at local animal shelters. Adoption costs incurred by CBP would be reimbursed by DHS.
  • This pilot program would be valid for a term of three years and will help in assisting CBP meet the number of dogs needed to reach their goal of placing a therapy dog in every Border Patrol Sector across the country.
  • The PEARL Act authorizes a modest appropriation of funds for the Support Canine Program.

Pearl, pictured above, is the first CBP support canine and serves at the U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector.



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