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Trained Search and Rescue Dogs Assist in Haitian Relief Efforts

January 20th, 2010 No comments
Search and Rescue Dogs from Around the World are Helping Victims of Haiti's Earthquake

Search and Rescue Dogs Help Haiti's Earthquake Victims

Dogs trained in performing search and rescue services are being deployed from countries around the world in an effort to assist in relief efforts in earthquake torn Haiti.

According to Discovery News, hundreds of specially trained “sniffer” dogs and their handlers from the U.S., China, Russia, Peru, Mexico, the U.K. and numerous other countries, have made their way to Haiti to help in the rescue operations.  Debra Tosch, Executive Director of the U.S. organization National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, stated:

Our hearts go out to our neighbors in Haiti, and we’re honored to be able to help find survivors of this terrible tragedy as part of CA-TF2 (the code name for the task force). This is the day that our teams have trained for; when the unthinkable happens, SDF Teams stand ready to respond, bringing hope and comfort to victims and their loved ones.

Teams from NDSDF have been instrumental in locating and helping to rescue a number of victims buried under the rubble.  Five people were rescued on Sunday, days after the earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation.   According to Tosch, “The rescues in Haiti underscore the critical importance of Canine Search Teams in finding survivors in the  aftermath of major disasters.”

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Service Dogs for Veterans Act Passes Congress

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Service Dogs for Veteran’s Act

Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) first piece of legislation, the Service Dogs for Veterans Act, has passed the Senate.

Service Dogs for Veterans Act Will Provide Trained Dogs to Assist Wounded Veterans

Service Dogs for Veterans Act Will Provide Trained Dogs to Assist Wounded Veterans

The bill requires the “Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to assess the feasibility and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities.”  The program will provide about 200 trained service dogs to disabled veterans and will set up a multi-year study to determine the costs and benefits involved.

Cost of the Program to Provide Service Dogs to Veterans

The cost of the program is about $5 million out of the $680.2 billion 2010 Defense Authorization Bill.  The cost of training each service dog is about $25,000.  Although there are a number of charitable groups that raise the money and provide training for service dogs, the waiting list for trained service dogs is long, reports the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

The funding for this bill is not intended to take the place of the work nonprofits do.  Its goal is to study the feasibility of government funding for service dogs in the treatment and rehabilitation of wounded vets.

What is Next for the Service Dogs for Veterans Act?

The bill was approved in Congress on Thursday, October 22, as part of the Defense Authorization Bill. The legislation was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).  Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Ron Klein (D-FL), championed a companion version of the bill in the House.  It now awaits the signature of President Obama to become law.

S. 1495 – Service Dogs for Veterans Act, as introduced.


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What Is a Service Dog? A Court Case in Wisconsin Will Test the Issue

August 6th, 2009 No comments

Stephen Bottila claims his German shepherd mix dog is a service animal and that Madison, Wisconsin police unlawfully ejected him from a restaurant and a city park with his dog in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bottila contends the dog has the ability to alert him to oncoming epileptic seizures.

But a former Madison police officer testified in a deposition that the dog lacked a harness or any other item identifying it as a service dog at the time of the incident at the park.  In the lawsuit, the City of Madison denies that the dog is, in fact, a service dog and challenges whether Bottila has a legitimate need to be accompanied by the dog.

Legal Definition of a Service Animal

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division:

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

It is not required that service animals wear special harnesses or collars, and proof of a person’s medical condition or the dog’s certification as a service dog may not be demanded as a condition of allowing the dog to accompany the person.

A Service Dog is Any Animal Individually Trained to Provide Assistance to a Person with a Disability

A Service Dog is Any Animal Individually Trained to Provide Assistance to a Person with a Disability

Bottila’s Civil Rights Lawsuit may Test the Definition of Service Dog

Bottila’s civil rights lawsuit is scheduled to begin Monday in federal district court, and a pending motion by the city asks the judge to exclude the dog from the courtroom.  The city argues that its presence in court would suggest to the jury that the judge believes the dog is a service animal.

The City argues that whether the dog is a bona fide service animal “or merely a pet” is a disputed fact in the case.

Since the incidents that gave rise to the lawsuit, Bottila was subdued with pepper spray and a Taser after he refused to leave a restaurant where the manager sought to eject him because of the dog.  Madison Police Captain Victor Wahl maintains the officers acted appropriately because Bottila had finished eating and had no more business in the restaurant and he resisted officers’ attempts to remove him.

Update:  The Dog will be Permitted in Court

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said she will allow Stephen Bottila to bring Justice, a German shepherd mix Bottila says is a seizure-alert dog, into the courtroom during the trial that begins Monday.


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Update on the Service Dog Veteran’s Act: Bill Seeks to Provide Trained Assistance Dogs to Wounded Veterans

August 3rd, 2009 No comments

The Service Dog Veteran’s Act would fund a pilot program to provide assistance dogs to veterans with physical and mental disabilities.

The Service Dog Veteran’s Act, a bill co-sponsored by Senators Al Franken and Johnny Isakson, easily passed as as part of the FY2010 Defense Authorization Bill.  The measure will establish a pilot program of at least 200 dogs and veterans to assess the therapeutic value of the dogs for veterans with physical and mental injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.  Half the service dogs will be for veterans with mental health disabilities and the other half will help those with physical disabilities.

Service Dog Veteran's Act Will Fund the Training of Service Dogs for Wounded Veterans

Service Dog Veteran's Act Will Fund the Training of Service Dogs for Wounded Veterans

The bill is expected to pass the House and be signed into law.  The Veterans’ Administration will pay for the first 50 dogs in the program, and will thereafter provide funds to match contributions made to non-profit service dog organizations.

The program will last for three years at a cost of $5 million.  During that time, researchers will study its effectiveness.  Senator Franken has stated that there is evidence to suggest service dogs would reduce the suicide rate among veterans, reduce hospitalizations and overall help lower the cost of their health care.

“Everything I’ve had problems with, sleeping, walking – she’s been there,” said injured soldier Shane Vincent of his miniature Yorkie named Bella.  Vincent believes that having specially trained service dogs will make even more of a difference in the lives of wounded veterans.

Johnny Isakson is a U.S. Senator from Georgia.  He can be contacted at http://isakson.senate.gov/contact.cfm or by telephone at (202) 224-3643.  Al Franken is a U.S. Senator from Minnesota who can be contacted at [email protected] or by telephone at (202) 224-5641.

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