ServiceDogSPRINGFIELD – Illinois military veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression will be eligible for service dogs through a special program under legislation sponsored by Senator Andy Manar that was signed into law Friday.

“Service dogs often can offer companionship, stress-relief and motivation to veterans with PTSD or depression that friends and family may not be able to provide,” Manar said. “I am pleased that these veterans now are on the list of people in Illinois who can take advantage of the Helping Paws Service Dog Program and lead more fulfilling lives.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 2897 into law Friday. The legislation was sponsored in the House by Republican State Rep. Dave Severin of Benton. The measure expands the list of eligible recipients of service dogs through the Helping Paws program to include veterans with PTSD or depression.

The Illinois Department of Corrections operates the Helping Paws Service Dog Program out of the Logan Correctional Center women’s prison. Offenders train dogs that go on to assist people who are visually impaired, use wheelchairs or have a variety of other disabilities. Dogs are provided at no charge.

Illinois has had the program for 17 years, and offenders have trained more than 300 dogs in that time. The program partners with Mid America Service Dogs Foundation and Paws Giving Independence.

Gov. Rauner said it is important to ensure that veterans have access to services that improve their quality of life and that the Helping Paws program will help provide the comfort and relief that they deserve.

Severin said he expects the new law will positively affect the lives of veterans who are struggling the most.

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