Our View of the Legislature: Service Animals

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The disability community did outstanding work to defeat a very troubling bill that tried to impede a person’s ability to have a service animal in housing. HB 586, sponsored by Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg, would have made it a crime for a person with a disability to claim the need for a service animal in housing in some circumstances.

In response to fierce opposition from the disability community, the Delegate amended his bill to remove the requirement for a “current” therapeutic relationship to validate the need for a service animal. However, the bill still made it a misdemeanor offense for an individual to represent a need for a service animal if it was determined that the need was without merit.

The amendments did nothing to remove the intent of the bill, which was clearly designed to intimidate people with disabilities when requesting accommodations. The bill was heard in the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology yesterday afternoon, with an impressive array of opposition. On the other side, there was a strong line up of apartment owners and real estate agencies seeking to make accommodation requests potentially criminal.

The bill was soundly rejected by the Committee, with Senators on both sides of the political aisle expressing their disdain for the bill. Given that the bill had been approved by the House, the response of the Senate can only be attributed to the dedicated advocacy work done by the disability community in this late stage of the process. Thank you to all who stepped up!

If you’d like to watch the committee discussion of the bill, check out this link near the time stamp of 22:55.

The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia 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. We fully support the right of individuals to have service animals in public accommodations and housing as protected by both state and federal law. We are available to educate policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals and budgetary considerations. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.