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Laws concerning therapy animals in Virginia

Many people rely on service animals to carry out a number of tasks. However, numerous states have begun to crack down on people who use fake service animals to bring their pets into businesses with them, including Virginia, which passed its own law on the matter in 2016. 

There are several different kinds of therapy animals people in the state can use from guide dogs, which help blind or partially blind people get around, to hearing dogs, which help alert their owners to any sounds requiring action in the area. There are many laws related to therapy animals both individuals and businesses in Virginia should be aware of. 

Which businesses must accommodate service animals?

Any area in which the general public can come service animals can come, too. That means the state would not expect a private homeowner to make accommodations for a service animal to be on the premises. It does mean the following types of businesses need to allow the dogs on the property: 

  • Schools
  • Parks and zoos
  • Museums, sports stadiums and theaters
  • Retail stores
  • Restaurants
  • Public transportation, including buses and subways
  • Hotels

What rules must the service animal follow?

When an individual enters a public area, a proprietor of that establishment cannot ask the person what his or her disability is. The dog's owner can help eliminate any confusion by having the proper identification for the service animal. Guide dogs must be in a harness while hearing dogs must have an orange leash. Any other type of service dog must have a vest, harness or backpack that clearly identifies its role as a service dog. 

What about housing?

Some apartment complexes have rules that the tenants cannot have any pets. This rule does not apply to individuals who depend on service animals. However, in the event the service dog causes any damage, the owner will be responsible for paying for any costs. 

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