Two years after Congress ordered the Veterans Affairs Department to increase access for service dogs to its facilities, the department is moving to alter its policies.
In a proposed change to regulations, VA plans to let service dogs into its facilities and medical centers as long as they are under the control of their handlers and the animal is trained to perform a task for a person with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities.
Current policy holds that VA facilities are required to let in only seeing eye dogs; facilities managers have discretion to open their buildings to other dogs.
The proposed change is more liberal than a law passed in 2012, which required VA to let in seeing eye dogs, mobility dogs and other guide dogs that have been trained and accredited by an organization that evaluates guide dogs and service dogs.
If implemented, the new policy, published Friday in the Federal Register, would expand access for all types of service dogs, similar to the access provisions spelled out in the Americans With Disabilities Act for private businesses.
Under that law, businesses, state and local governments, non-profits and other entities that serve the public must grant access to all service dogs. Establishments are not allowed to ask for any documentation that the animal is a service dog; they can only ask if the animal is needed for a disability and what task the animal has been trained to perform.
VA is soliciting comment on the proposed regulations until Jan. 20 on the Federal Register website.