IAVA supports action today by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to amend its regulation on the presence of animals on VA property. Currently the VA allows only for guide dogs on any VA property. Other animals are authorized at the discretion of particular VA facilities. However, federal law authorizes guide dogs and other assistance dogs when such dogs who are accompanying individuals with disabilities seeking admittance to buildings or property owned or operated by the federal government and the dog meets the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of a specially trained service dog.
This proposed new rule expands the current VA service dog regulation to be consistent with applicable federal law, while clarifying the authority of a VA facility head or designee to allow other animals to be present on VA property for purposes of law enforcement or animal-assisted therapies. IAVA applauds this expansion as it would allow for greater sensitivity and inclusion of all disabled individuals including those with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability when they choose to use a properly trained and qualified service dog as a way of mitigating their limitations.
This change is long overdue and will expand recognition of service dogs beyond seeing eye dogs, to include those who assist with mobility impairments and mental health injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. It will allow veterans and their family members who are assisted by a service dog to seek care at VA facilities without concern for whether or not their service dog will be permitted to accompany them. For many who use these dogs, their support is critical in their daily lives; leaving them behind is not an option. IAVA applauds the VA for recognizing this and changing their policy to be more consistent with current federal law.
We look forward to continued collaboration with the VA to enhance these policies regarding service dogs even further, including a provision to allow access for service dogs in training which is not granted per this updated policy.