A bill that would help veterans in Colorado obtain service dogs has passed through the state's House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee, reported a CBS affiliate in Denver. The bill, House Bill 1112, aims to establish an initiative for former servicemembers in the state who wish to train their own service animals. If the legislation passes, state officials will select approximately 10 veterans for a pilot program.
Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-El Paso County, sponsored HB 1112 in January. Landgraf's intention was to help local veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"These veterans that have these dogs have told me the dog has saved their lives many times; kept them from committing suicide," she told CBS. "My only regret is only reaching out to 10 veterans, but it's a start and then hopefully they will be able to turn around and do the same thing for other veterans and the program will be self-sustaining and it can branch out to police and fire."
Local dog trainers and mental health workers have already agreed to volunteer for the program. And, Landgraf intends to acquire partially trained animals from the state prison system.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, around 15 percent of all veterans who served in the last four major conflicts suffer from PTSD. The VA advises servicemembers dealing with the condition to consider owning a dog. The animals act as loyal companions and reduce stress.
Navy veteran Jeremy Turrell adopted his 7-year-old golden retriever Chaos after he was discharged. Turrell, who suffers from PTSD, eventually trained Chaos to act as his service dog. In January, the veteran came to the Colorado General Assembly to show his support for HB 1112.
"My life in general, he's what's kept me going because if I'm not going to change my life for me, then I'll at least do it for him," Turrell said in an interview with CBS. "The best thing he does is come to your aid. He's there for you to love on him so he can love on you."