Two Livingston County-based veteran organizations are hoping to benefit from bipartisan passage of a bill to help connect veterans with service dogs in their communities.

The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act passed the U.S. House unanimously today after being co-sponsored last fall by 8th District Democrat Elissa Slotkin and Ohio Republican Congressman Steve Stivers. Both Pinckney-based Blue Star Service Dogs and Veteran Service Dogs of Howell could potentially benefit from the legislation. The bill comes as the Veterans Administration has yet to fully embrace a service dog's ability to help veterans with PTSD. A statement on the VA's website states that there is currently not enough clinical research to definitively demonstrate that dogs help treat PTSD and its symptoms.

Slotkin told WHMI’s Mike & Jon in the Morning that the bill essentially forces the VA to consider service dogs as a viable form of treatment. "What we kept hearing from the VA is that there's no scientific research to prove that dogs and animals supporting veterans actually helps and it just flew in the face of everything I see with my own eyes. You can go see it yourself with these organizations in Livingston County. So we said 'Fine. You want the science?' let's actually do a pilot program so we can show you that its worth investing it in and if the pilot program goes well then it will become something they do on a much larger scale."

Specifically it would partner the VA with nonprofit organizations working with veterans and service dogs to create work-therapy programs where veterans also learn about training dogs. Upon completion of the program, the veterans may adopt their dogs to provide continuing therapy. Slotkin is hopeful that due to the bipartisan nature of the bill, it will move through the U.S. Senate and eventually to President Trump’s desk for his signature. (JK)

Top picture - Dog in training at Blue Star Service Dogs
Bottom Picture - Congresswoman Slotkin visiting Blue Star Service Dogs