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Perry And Boots Sign Service Animal Law In San Antonio

Against the backdrop of VFW 76 in downtown San Antonio, Gov. Rick Perry signed into law House Bill 489 to benefit returning wounded warriors and other disabled people who use service animals.

The bill prohibits restaurants and other establishments from refusing to allow entry to service dogs of any disabled person.

Col. Carol Anderson, U.S. Army Ret., kept her service dog close to her during the press conference because her injuries left her panicky among crowds.

"Right now I’m rubbing my dog with my foot," Anderson admitted.

Anderson received repeated head injuries from improvised explosive device (IED) explosions in Iraq, but the severity of her injuries didn’t show up until much later.

"When they were trying to diagnose the headaches, they found a brain aneurysm, and when I had surgery for the aneurysm, I had a stroke soon thereafter," Anderson said.

Her service dog, Jewelz, can take charge when Anderson is confused, leading her away from traffic, through crowds, and even find help if the veteran suffers a seizure or stroke. Jewelz is one of many service dogs that have been turned away by restaurants and stores.

State Representative José Menéndez said the service dogs provide more than comfort for the veterans, in many cases they help them get out of their homes and lead more normal lives.

"This removes any excuse for denying a disabled person using a service animal entry into any public establishment or business," Menendez said.

The new law, signed at the VFW Hall by the governor and paw printed by service dog Boots, makes it easier for veterans and any disabled person to enjoy restaurants, retail stores, and all establishments without discrimination against their service dogs.

"That was fun," Perry said of signing the bill with the help of Boots.

The bill also makes it illegal for anyone to try to represent a dog as a service dog when they are not. The law carries a fine of up to $300 along with 30 hours of community service for violation.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.