Rep. Slotkin shines light on service dogs for veterans program

Michigan

PINCKNEY, Mich. (WLNS)– A Livingston County program that pairs shelter dogs with combat veterans is in the spotlight today.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin visited the Blue Star Service Dogs in Pinckney, a non-profit that rescues and trains shelter dogs, pairing them with combat veterans diagnosed with invisible wounds like PTSD.

Blue Star Service Dogs is an organization that could directly benefit from Slotkin’s PAWS Act, bipartisan legislation she co-led to help connect veterans with service dogs in their communities.

“When we make the decision to send young men and women to fight for our country, we make the decision to support them for the rest of their lives,” Slotkin said at a recent press conference urging passage of the PAWS Act. “We have incredible organizations in Livingston County who help train dogs and connect them with veterans who need them — and this bill would set up a pilot program through the VA to work with nonprofits like these to create work-therapy programs for veterans.”

Blue Star Service Dogs began in 2010. Service Dog studies are showing the benefits to individuals with PTSD reducing depression symptoms by 82%. The group has found that having a service dog is a great addition to support a medical treatment plan.

“It changed my life,” says Mary Mahlow, an Army veteran training her second service dog to help with her anxiety and depression. “When you have to look after someone else, you’re not looking at yourself. You’re not going down the rabbit hole.”

“We are excited to see this veteran-focused pilot program to support service dog training and veterans’ access to training and adoption. It’s important to make support and resources available in our community wherever veterans may need it – and this bill will help veterans heal,” said Christine Myran, Executive Director of Blue Star Service Dogs.

It takes about a year of training for service dogs to increase the bond between the veteran and dog.

“Now that I don’t have my military family around, I stay to myself,” says Navy veteran Shane Brown. “I never left the house. I don’t need to get a job because I’m disabled. But having a dog, it makes me get out of the house, it makes me take care of another living being. So it gives me something to do and does help out a lot.”

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