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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: July 7, 2015 02:33 PM
From: Representative Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Therapy Dogs for Veterans and Others
“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”
. . . . . Abraham Lincoln

In the near future, I will be introducing a bill that amends the Human Relations Act and provides for the right to freedom from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, and in public transportation for those who use therapy dogs.

Between 300,000 and 400,000 U.S. veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year. As is the case with any illness, diagnosis is just the first step in a long journey back to wholeness. There are many types of treatments for veterans with PTSD. One of the most recently discovered therapies and one that holds great promise, and one that also happens to be safe, effective and all natural – involves the pairing of specially trained therapy dogs with PTSD veterans. According to Military Times, service dogs can help veterans who suffer from PTSD by creating a buffer in public places, waking a veteran from a nightmare, or lying on the chest of someone having a panic attack until the person calms down.

Every single day, 22 of our veterans take their own lives. Most of these suicides are a result of PTSD which was not treated, or not treated well enough. Many of our veterans who suffer from PTSD who have not been responsive to other therapies and medications have been responsive to the use of therapy dogs. The therapy dogs have been able to bring a soldier out of a flashback, sense an approaching panic attack, and even dial 9-1-1. These dogs also help to restore veterans’ sense of responsibility, optimism, enthusiasm, and self-awareness. In fact, caring for a dog can actually reduce PTSD sufferers’ need for anti-anxiety medications.

In this legislation, the opportunity for an individual, owner, or handler of a therapy dog, or a person licensed to train therapy dogs to obtain all the accommodations of any public transportation mode without discrimination is assured. In addition, because of the use of a therapy dog properly harnessed for the purposes of aiding and guiding a disabled person, riding on all vehicles operated for public transportation is hereby recognized as and declared to be a civil right which shall be enforceable.

I hope that you will please join me in sponsoring this very important legislation for our veterans and other Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

Introduced as HB1466