[nagdu] GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Service-dog bill is gaining traction in Virginia

Ginger Kutsch GingerKutsch at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 25 13:14:51 UTC 2014

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Service-dog bill is gaining traction in Virginia



RICHMOND-With little discussion and no dissent, a Senate committee Friday
advanced a bill to broaden Virginia's service dogs laws to ensure that they
include dogs used to help those suffering from PTSD.


The bill comes from Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania. 


Lori O'Bry, with the Stafford SPCA, came to Richmond to urge its passage. 


She said service dogs that help people with invisible injuries-like
traumatic brain injuries or PTSD-are sometimes "not recognized or understood
by an uninformed public."


People with those dogs-like military veterans who use service dogs to help
with anxiety or other problems-can encounter problems in public
establishments, O'Bry said, from proprietors who don't see what the person's
disability is.


Reeves' bill changes the code's definitions of who is eligible for service
dogs, adding a reference to an "otherwise disabled person" which would mean
"any person who has a physical, sensory, intellectual, developmental, or
mental disability or a mental illness."


He further defines service dog as meaning a dog trained to do work or tasks
for "a mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled person." Those tasks, the new
language says, could include "nonviolent protection," helping the person
during a seizure, or "preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive


Emotional support and comfort do not count, the language says.


Reeves and O'Bry both think the bill could raise public awareness of service
dogs for disabilities like PTSD.


It's already raised Keith DeBlasio's awareness. He didn't know his own
service dog wasn't covered under current Virginia law. 


DeBlasio, who lobbies in Richmond and happened to read Reeves' bill, said he
has a medical alert dog. He's never been denied service with her in
Virginia, he said, but he has in South Carolina and Georgia, where hotels
refused to let him keep the dog in his room. 


"I didn't realize until I saw his bill that a medical alert dog is not
covered in Virginia," DeBlasio said. "The ADA and other laws are not clear."


Reeves' bill will go to the full Senate and, if it passes, to the House.

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