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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 18, 2017 09:45 AM
From: Representative Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Therapy Dog Co-sponsorship
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to provide for freedom from discrimination in public transportation for people who use therapy dogs.

The use of therapy dogs has proven to be a very effective mode of treatment for our veterans who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Approximately 7-8% of people will experience PTSD during their lifetime. At any given time in a year, about 8 million people have PTSD. Moreover, between 300,000 and 400,000 veterans are diagnosed with PTSD every year. The diagnosis of this condition is the first step on the treatment path to return to wholeness. There are a variety of treatment protocols for people with struggle with PTSD. One of the most recent discoveries is the use of specially trained therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs can bring people out of flashbacks, provide comfort in stressful situations, sense panic attacks and even dial 9-1-1 when needed. In terms of veterans, these therapy dogs can help restore a sense of responsibility, optimism, enthusiasm, and self-awareness. In addition, therapy dogs can act as a buffer in public places, especially on public transportation. This allows the person with PTSD to have a stronger feeling of safety and security when using public transportation. Furthermore, having a therapy dog can reduce a PTSD sufferers’ need for anti-anxiety medication.

Sadly, under current law, only service animals are recognized for people to use on public transportation. Service animals are traditionally only provided with people who have physical disabilities. A person who has a therapy dog for their mental illness is not able to bring their dog onto public transportation for assistance. I would like to change that.

This legislation would prevent a transportation authority from denying, limiting, discouraging or imposing burdens or penalties on an individual with a disability who is accompanied by a harnessed and trained therapy dog. A therapy dog is a dog that is trained to perform specific tasks for the benefit of individuals with special needs. This therapy dog would need to be certified by a recognized therapy dog training organization. The Department of Agriculture would create rules and regulations for therapy dogs to allow this to be implemented by the transportation authority.

I hope that you will please join me in sponsoring this very important piece of legislation to help assist our veterans, and all other members of the Commonwealth with disabilities, get treatment and get on the road to a better life.

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Introduced as HB1995