Bill Aims To Expand Access To Service Dogs For Folks With PTSD

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A bill is moving through the Ohio legislature that would make it easier for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to obtain and handle service dogs.

Ohio State Representative Margaret Ann Ruhl (D), drafted House Bill 310, to help all everyone who suffers from PTSD.

“Basically it just calms them down so they’re able to just walk out of the house. They feel a little more secure,” said Ruhl of the service dogs.

Ruhl’s bill allows PTSD dogs to go anywhere with their owners, much like seeing-eye dogs. The bill passed unanimously in the house and is now in the Senate.

While the bill was inspired by a veteran’s story, PTSD is not limited to military members alone.

Black lab Charlotte helps her owner Alyssa, from Marysville, to cope with her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Alyssa developed severe anxiety after being raped in high school. “The person who did it to me was my very best friend. So you completely lose trust in everybody when something like that happens,” she said.

Alyssa could barely leave the house without her family by her side. But after expanding her family by four legs, Alyssa is stepping outside again.

Charlotte is watching Alyssa at all times, and can complete a number of tasks. For example, if Alyssa is in an uncomfortable situation, she can cue Charlotte to get her out of it. Charlotte nudges and pats like she needs to go outs, giving Alyssa an easy excuse to step away from any conversation.

Emotional support dogs also are trained to keep survivors of PTSD in the present, helping them feel safe and loved.  Charlotte was trained at Freedom Paws in Marysville. It took six months, and she still goes back for additional lessons.

But because PTSD is not considered equal to other disabilities when it comes to service dogs, Alyssa has run into some problems.

“I went to Wal-Mart with her to go grocery shopping, and one of the employees there asked me to leave, because she wasn’t a seeing-eye dog,” said Alyssa.

Alyssa said she wishes everyone with PTSD could have a dog as she does.

“Now I can actually go shopping with myself, and I have an apartment by myself now, because I feel a sense of freedom because I have her with me,” she said.

Caleigh Bourgeois is a fellow in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. Follow her on Twitter @caleighreports.