Our View of the Legislature: Service Animals

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The 2023 General Assembly session ended on Saturday, February 25, 2023, but without passing the budget bills. Since the budget bills in an odd-numbered year are merely amendments to the two-year budget, it is possible that the legislature will not pass them at all this year and simply leave last year’s budget in place unchanged.

During the regular session, the House and Senate approved a bill dealing with service animals in residential dwellings. The bill will now go to the Governor to review.

If a bill is sent to the Governor with fewer than 10 days left in the session, as this one will be, the Governor has 30 days to review it. He can either sign the bill, amend the bill, or veto it. The legislature will then meet again in April to respond to any proposed changes or vetoes.

The service animal bill that was passed this year is a revision of a bill considered last year. The disability community worked hard to defeat last year’s bill but has been satisfied with the revisions this year.

Last year’s bill addressed a supposed problem with people claiming to need a service animal or therapeutic animal illegitimately. Last year’s version would make it a criminal offense for a person to claim to need a service animal without actually needing it. This year’s version, HB 1725, from Delegate VanValkenburg, places a penalty instead on any business that produces a fraudulent document asserting that an animal is a service animal. The 2023 legislation makes it a civil violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The bill also states that if that is found to conflict with federal law, it will be invalidated.

This is our next-to-last report on the service animal bill. We will include this bill in our final report on actions by the Governor.

We fully support the right of individuals to have service animals in public accommodations and housing as protected by both state and federal law. Service animals enhance the ability of some people with disabilities to live independently. Our mission is to advance independence, choice, and self-determination; protect legal, human, and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect, and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. Please let us know of any issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at ga@dlcv.org or info@dlcv.org or by calling
1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.