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House Oks bill allowing veterans with PTSD to have service dogs

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A state representative's bill will provide more service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Texas House passed Bill 489 this week, sending it to the Senate by a 120 to 21 vote.

It's the invisible wounds that sometimes hurt the most.

"Things don't startle me like they used to and I can...get out around people. I don't isolate as much," said Tom Caddell, an Air Force veteran coping with post-traumatic stress disorder through service dog therapy.

This girl's name is "Molly."

Tom said, "I kind of feel like I can let my guard down a little bit because she's watching for me, like maybe she's got my back or something."

Current laws regarding animal assistance define a "person with a disability" as someone with mental retardation, hearing impairment, deafness, speech impairment, visual impairment, or any health impairment that requires special ambulatory devices or services.

"More and more people are living longer with disabilities," said Sheri Soltes, the Founder and President of Service Dogs Inc. "In the industry, there's a three to seven year wait for a hearing dog or a service dog. But, we've worked really, really hard to train our dogs, so our wait is usually more like one year."

House bill 489, written by State Representative, José Menéndez, a Democrat from San Antonio, defines a service dog as a canine that helps the blind, deaf, physically disabled, mentally ill, people with seizure disorders and those with PTSD, including veterans.

According to the bill, Okayed by the House, PTSD was not previously considered to be a disability that called for a service dog's assistance.

Sheri said, "It's not really about new people qualifying for a dog, it's about the level of training that qualify to have public access with their partners...It's really important to decide what these dogs are going to be doing and that's the part that hasn't been really clearly defined yet."

Some dogs can be trained to wake up their owner from a nightmare, which requires much more training than mere obedience.

Sheri said, "What we don't want to do is open a door to people bringing poorly trained dogs into public because it reflects bad on the whole industry."

When the training is done both ends of the leash, the results are amazing.

"This has saved my life, it really has," Tom said.

For Tom, she's not just a best friend. Molly is his new battle buddy.

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