Bill Would Protect Veterans with Service Dogs

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A bill introduced in the Michigan State House Wednesday would provide equal treatment for veterans with service dogs. It would allow veterans who suffer from service-related psychiatric disabilities, like post-traumatic stress or brain injuries, to be accompanied by a service dog.

Democratic State Representative David Knezek of Dearborn Heights introduced the bill after he saw veterans with service dogs being asked to leave businesses because they didn't have a visible disability.

House Bill 5374 would expand the Michigan Penal Code to bring psychiatric service dogs under the same statute as other service dogs. It would also standardize the style of vests and harnesses used by the service dog and require a veteran carry a picture ID card certifying it was trained by a qualified organization or trainer.

“The therapy these dogs provide a veteran is incredible,” said Knezek. “Transitioning home from Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t always an easy process. We need to understand that, respect it and do everything we can do to help welcome our veterans home."

Stiggy's Dogs, an organization in Howell that rescues and trains shelter dogs to be psychiatric service dogs for veterans, calls the legislation a huge step forward for Michigan and military veterans.

"Many veterans who have benefited tremendously from psychiatric service dogs have also been unfortunately subjected to uncertainty and even backlash for being in public with their service animals,” said Jennifer Petre, founder and director. “We commend Rep. Knezek on all of his hard work on this legislation and his dedication to ensuring that all veterans are equally protected under the law.”

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