Measure provides service dogs to vets
That didn't take long.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken's first piece of legislation — a pilot program pairing wounded veterans with service dogs — passed the Senate late Thursday, a day after the Democratic freshman introduced it.
The measure began as a stand-alone bill that was added by unanimous consent to a much-larger Defense Authorization bill. It, in turn, cleared the Senate on an 87-7 vote and will be reconciled with an earlier House version that doesn't contain Franken's initiative.
Franken's press secretary, Jess McIntosh, said the service-dog proposal has broad, bipartisan support. Three of six senators who signed on as co-sponsors, for example, are Republican, including the other lead co-sponsor, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
Franken, who was sworn into office July 7 after an eight-month recount and court challenge, said several times he wanted to "hit the ground running'' once he took office.
A well-known lover of dogs, Franken talked to an injured Iraq war veteran at President Barack Obama's inauguration in January and learned about the man's service dog, provided through a nonprofit organization, and the help the dog provided the man.
After doing his own research and finding a need for such a program, Franken proposed the legislation, according to McIntosh. If the program within the Department of Veterans Affairs survives, service dogs would be trained to help physically and mentally wounded veterans.