The recently approved Senate Bill 245 brought forward by Senator Ling Ling Chang will allow veterans to start adopting cats and dogs for free from public shelters starting New Year’s Day in 2020.
Signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom last week, the bill helps veterans who do not qualify for service animals but could rely on animal companions instead to help cope with mental health issues.
“Not all veteran cases are the same and not every single veteran would benefit from a fully trained, ADA compliant service animal,” Service Dog Interactions, Inc. CEO Caleb Homer said. “Some benefit from simply having an emotional support animal and this bill does just that.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimate that up to 30 percent of veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder depending on when they served, and more than 6,000 veterans committed suicide yearly between 2008 to 2016.
Unlike service animals which are trained to perform work or specific tasks under the Americans with Disabilities Act, animal companions are not. Yet, they do recognize that emotional support animals can be included in some treatment plans for mental health.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that of the 6.5 million cats and dogs that enter U.S. animal shelters each year, 1.5 million of them are euthanized for various reasons.
“This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals . . . and I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home,” Chang said.
Public shelters can limit the number of cats and dogs a veteran can adopt to one every six months and in order to take advantage of the free animal adoptions, the person adopting must have the veteran designation on either their California driver’s license or identification card.
However, even though the number of animals might be limited, Homer doesn’t think this will be a problem for any of the veterans who are truly considering adopting a dog or cat as a companion.
“Especially, the veterans who live alone and when they come home to their empty house or apartment and it’s depressing,” Homer said, “However, if they have a dog or cat there, that gives them a sense of purpose that they have to go home and they have to take care of their animal.”