Lawmakers pre-file bill to change the definition of "service dog"

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) – Lawmakers in Missouri have pre-filed a bill that would change the definition of the term “service dog.” House Bill 262 would add another subsection to include psychiatric or mental health service dogs.

The bill revision states, ” … a dog individually trained for its owner who is diagnosed with a psychiatric disability, medical condition, or developmental disability recognized in the most recently published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to perform tasks that mitigate or assist with difficulties including, but not limited to, alerting or responding to episodes such as panic attacks and anxiety and performing other tasks directly related to the owner’s psychiatric disability, medical condition, or developmental disability including, but not limited to, autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses and invisible disabilities.”

Susanne Chastain, a service and therapy dog trainer at The Big Doghouse in Springfield, says all dogs and their owners are different. “If you have six dogs of the same breed and six veterans with similar circumstances all of the dogs are going to be different and all of the veterans will be different. Everyone comes with their own set of luggage and that baggage that we have to work around.”

In the past, similar bills have not seen much push back. The 2017 legislative session starts Wednesday, January 4th.