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Senate passes Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program

The Avenue News - 3/16/2017

On March 8th, I, along with the entire Maryland State Senate, co-sponsored Senate Bill 441 to establish the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program. Generally, the program's purpose is to pair veterans with service or support dogs and facilitate their training. The program will be funded primarily by donations and any funds appropriated in the state budget.

Veterans eligible for the program are individuals who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, other than for training, was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The veterans must also be residents of Maryland.

The program must implement a training protocol to teach participating veterans methods, strategies and techniques for partnering with service or support dogs. The program will select an appropriate dog for each participating veteran.

They are bonded not as animal and human being, but rather in deep friendship and mutual trust. The dogs help physically and mentally wounded vets adjust to the world after war.

The program will be administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. On October 1, 2018 and annually thereafter the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) must post and maintain a list of individuals who have donated to the fund and have not requested to remain anonymous.

Data shows that service and support dogs have been successful with veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other traumas. Each day, 20 veterans commit suicide in America. The dogs are trained to recognize symptoms of PTSD. When the dog senses that the veteran is in emotional trouble, they will comfort them.

There is no negative aspect to the establishment of the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program. I am proud to be a strong supporter of SB 441.

-Senator Johnny Ray Salling, District 6


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