Legislation to protect veterans with service dogs passes Senate

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation to protect Michigan military veterans who use service dogs to better manage the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) was approved Thursday by the Michigan Senate.

“These bills provide certainty for our military veterans and others who use service dogs to help cope with their injuries and better live their lives,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, who chairs the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee. “Too many veterans suffer from invisible wounds. Veterans consider their service dogs an extension of themselves. Service dogs are integral to their lives, but too often they encounter problems because people do not know that the animals are service dogs. By adopting these measures, Michigan can ensure it is fighting for those who fought for us.”

Senate Bill 299, sponsored by O’Brien, would exempt licensing fees for veterans’ service dogs. SB 298, sponsored by Senator David Knezek, aims to expand existing state law to allow for the use of service dogs in Michigan and also would establish penalties for those who may harass or injure a service dog.

Companion measures introduced and passed by the state House of Representatives are currently before O’Brien’s committee for consideration.

House Bill 4521, sponsored by Representative Tom Barrett, would require the Department of Civil Rights to create an identification card, tag and vest for service animals. HB 4527, sponsored by Representative David Rutledge, would expand the range of disabilities eligible for the use of service dogs and would establish criminal penalties of up to 90 days in jail for falsely claiming to have a disability that would enable a person to use a service dog.

All measures are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Senate bills now go to the House for consideration.