Alton, IL

Increasing Access to Service Dogs

Story by WBGZ Radio

Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often benefit from having service dogs, and a new Illinois law will make it easier for veterans to find a four-legged friend trained to help with specific needs.

The Helping Paws Program has been running for 17 years at the Logan Correctional Center for women, and under House Bill 2897, veterans suffering from PTSD or depression can now receive service dogs through the program.

Melissa Mooney, the corrections vocational instructor with Helping Paws, said the dogs are trained to make their owner feel safe in a number of ways.

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"We train the dogs to go into rooms and clear the room," she said. "They will make sure no one is in there and turn on the lights so they can enter the room comfortably without feeling any sort of threat."

Dogs are trained to circle around their owners at a 3-foot distance to create a safe space, according to Mooney.

"We’ve trained our PTSD dogs to create some natural space for their recipient so if they are out in public they don’t have people right next to them," Mooney said.

"We also will train the dog to lean into other people and kind of push them back away from the recipient if the recipient feels uncomfortable," Mooney said.

The service dogs can also help their owner deal with nightmares and flashbacks, according to Mooney.

"The dog will wake them up, alert them to bring them out of the flashback that they are having," Mooney said.

Helping Paws provides service dogs free of charge.  To make donations or learn more about getting a service dog for a veteran, contact the Logan Correctional Center and ask to speak with the Helping Paws Program.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio /


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