Virginia State Service Dog Laws

The full text of Virginia law can be found here. Please expand the sections below to read more regarding Service Animals in Virginia.

Important points:

VA CODE § 51.5-44 E. Every totally or partially blind person shall have the right to be accompanied by a dog in harness trained as a guide dog, every deaf or hearing-impaired person shall have the right to be accompanied by a dog trained as a hearing dog on a blaze orange leash, and every mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled person shall have the right to be accompanied by a dog, trained as a service dog, in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a trained service dog, in any of the places listed in subsection B without being required to pay an extra charge for the dog, provided that he shall be liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by such dog.  The provisions of this section shall apply to persons accompanied by a dog that is in training, at least six months of age, and is (i) in harness, provided such person is an experienced trainer of guide dogs or is conducting continuing training of a guide dog;  (ii) on a blaze orange leash, provided such person is an experienced trainer of hearing dogs or is conducting continuing training of a hearing dog;  (iii) in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a trained service dog, provided such person is an experienced trainer of service dogs or is conducting continuing training of a service dog;  (iv) wearing a jacket identifying the recognized guide, hearing or service dog organization, provided such person is an experienced trainer of the organization identified on the jacket;  or (v) the person is part of a three-unit service dog team and is conducting continuing training of a service dog.

The governing body of each county or city shall impose by ordinance a license tax on the ownership of dogs within its jurisdiction.  The governing body of any locality that has adopted an ordinance pursuant to subsection B of § 3.2-6524 shall impose by ordinance a license tax on the ownership of cats within its jurisdiction.  The governing body may establish different rates of taxation for ownership of female dogs, male dogs, spayed or neutered dogs, female cats, male cats, and spayed or neutered cats.  The tax for each dog or cat shall not be less than $1 and not more than $10 for each year.  If the dog or cat has been spayed, the tax shall not exceed the tax provided for a male dog or cat.  Any ordinance may provide for a license tax for kennels of 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 dogs or cats not to exceed $50 for any one such block of kennels.

No license tax shall be levied on any dog that is trained and serves as a guide dog for a blind person, that is trained and serves as a hearing dog for a deaf or hearing-impaired person, or that is trained and serves as a service dog for a mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled person.

As used in this section, “hearing dog,” “mobility-impaired person,” “otherwise disabled person,” and “service dog” have the same meanings as assigned in § 51.5-40.1.

A. It is unlawful for a person to, without just cause, willfully impede or interfere with the duties performed by a dog if the person knows or has reason to believe the dog is a guide or leader dog.  A violation of this subsection is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

B. It is unlawful for a person to, without just cause, willfully injure a dog if the person knows or has reason to believe the dog is a guide or leader dog.  A violation of this subsection is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

“Guide or leader dog” means a dog that:  (i) serves as a dog guide for a blind person as defined in § 51.5-60 or for a person with a visual disability;  (ii) serves as a listener for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person as defined in § 51.5-111;  or (iii) provides support or assistance for a physically disabled or handicapped person.

The driver of a vehicle approaching a totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a cane predominantly white or metallic in color (with or without a red tip) or using a dog guide shall take all necessary precautions to avoid injury to such blind pedestrian and dog guide, and any driver who fails to take such precautions shall be liable in damages for any injury caused such pedestrian and dog guide;  provided that a totally or partially blind pedestrian not carrying such a cane or using a dog guide in any of the places, accommodations or conveyances listed in § 51.5-44, shall have all of the rights and privileges conferred by law upon other persons, and the failure of a totally or partially blind pedestrian to carry such a cane or to use a dog guide in any such places, accommodations or conveyances shall not be held to constitute nor be evidence of contributory negligence;  provided, that nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the application of § 46.2-933 or § 46.2-934.
Whenever a totally or partially blind pedestrian crossing or attempting to cross a highway in accordance with the provisions of § 46.2-923 is guided by a dog guide or carrying a cane which is predominantly metallic or white in color, with or without a red tip, the driver of every vehicle approaching the intersection or place of crossing shall bring his vehicle to a full stop before arriving at such intersection or place of crossing, unless such intersection or place of crossing is controlled by a law-enforcement officer or traffic light.  Any person violating any provision of this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

“Hearing dog” means a dog trained to alert its owner by touch to sounds of danger and sounds to which the owner should respond.

“Mental impairment” means (i) a disability attributable to intellectual disability, autism, or any other neurologically handicapping condition closely related to intellectual disability and requiring treatment similar to that required by individuals with intellectual disability  or (ii) an organic or mental impairment that has substantial adverse effects on an individual’s cognitive or volitional functions, including central nervous system disorders or significant discrepancies among mental functions of an individual.

“Mobility-impaired person” means any person who has completed training to use a dog for service or support because he is unable to move about without the aid of crutches, a wheelchair, or any other form of support or because of limited functional ability to ambulate, climb, descend, sit, rise, or perform any related function.

“Otherwise disabled person” means any person who has a physical, sensory, intellectual, developmental, or mental disability or a mental illness.

“Person with a disability” means any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his major life activities or who has a record of such impairment.

“Physical impairment” means any physical condition, anatomic loss, or cosmetic disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect, or illness.

“Service dog” means a dog trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled person.  The work or tasks performed by a service dog shall be directly related to the individual’s disability or disorder.  Examples of work or tasks include providing nonviolent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting an individual to the presence of allergens, retrieving items, carrying items, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability, and preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.  The provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship shall not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

“Three-unit service dog team” means a team consisting of a trained service dog, a disabled person, and a person who is an adult and who has been trained to handle the service dog.

A. A person with a disability has the same rights as other persons to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, public facilities, and other public places.  For purposes of this section, a “person with a disability” means a person whose disability is unrelated to his ability to utilize and benefit from a place of public accommodation or public service.

B. A person with a disability is entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all common carriers, airplanes, motor vehicles, railroad trains, motor buses, streetcars, subways, boats or any other public conveyances or modes of transportation, restaurants, hotels, lodging places, places of public accommodation, amusement or resort, public entities including schools, and other places to which the general public is invited subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.

C. Each town, city or county, individually or through transportation district commissions, shall ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the public transportation within its jurisdiction by either (i) use of the same transportation facilities or carriers available to the general public, (ii) provision of paratransit or special transportation services for persons with disabilities, or (iii) both.  All persons with disabilities in the jurisdiction’s service area who, by reason of their disabilities, are unable to use the service for the general public shall be eligible to use such paratransit or special transportation service.  No fee that exceeds the fee charged to the general public shall be charged a person with a disability for the use of the same transportation facilities or carriers available to the general public.  Paratransit or special transportation service for persons with disabilities may charge fees to such persons comparable to the fees charged to the general public for similar service in the jurisdiction service area, taking into account especially the type, length and time of trip.  Any variance between special service and regular service fares shall be justifiable in terms of actual differences between the two kinds of service provided.

D. Nothing in this title shall be construed to require retrofitting of any public transit equipment or to require the retrofitting, renovation, or alteration of buildings or places to a degree more stringent than that required by the applicable building code in effect at the time the building permit for such building or place is issued.

E. Every totally or partially blind person shall have the right to be accompanied by a dog in harness trained as a guide dog, every deaf or hearing-impaired person shall have the right to be accompanied by a dog trained as a hearing dog on a blaze orange leash, and every mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled person shall have the right to be accompanied by a dog, trained as a service dog, in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a trained service dog, in any of the places listed in subsection B without being required to pay an extra charge for the dog, provided that he shall be liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by such dog.  The provisions of this section shall apply to persons accompanied by a dog that is in training, at least six months of age, and is (i) in harness, provided such person is an experienced trainer of guide dogs or is conducting continuing training of a guide dog;  (ii) on a blaze orange leash, provided such person is an experienced trainer of hearing dogs or is conducting continuing training of a hearing dog;  (iii) in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a trained service dog, provided such person is an experienced trainer of service dogs or is conducting continuing training of a service dog;  (iv) wearing a jacket identifying the recognized guide, hearing or service dog organization, provided such person is an experienced trainer of the organization identified on the jacket;  or (v) the person is part of a three-unit service dog team and is conducting continuing training of a service dog.

Any person who knowingly and willfully fits a dog with a harness, collar, vest, or sign, or uses an identification card commonly used by a person with a disability, in order to represent that the dog is a service dog or hearing dog to fraudulently gain public access for such dog pursuant to provisions in § 51.5-44 is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.
A. All persons with disabilities unrelated to their ability to acquire, rent, or maintain property shall be entitled to full and equal opportunity to acquire, as other members of the general public, any housing accommodations offered for sale, rent, lease, or compensation, subject to the conditions and limitations established by law and applying alike to all persons.  “Housing accommodations” for the purpose of this section means any real property, or portion thereof, which is used or occupied or is intended, arranged, or designed to be used or occupied, as the home, residence, or sleeping place of one or more human beings, but does not include any single family residence the occupant or owner of which rents, leases, or furnishes for compensation not more than one room therein.

B. Every visually impaired person who has a guide dog, every hearing-impaired person who has a hearing dog, and every mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled person with a service dog shall be entitled to full and equal access with such dog to all housing accommodations provided for in this section.  He shall not be required to pay extra compensation for such dog but shall be liable for any damage done to the premises by such dog.

C. Nothing in this section shall require any person offering for sale, renting, leasing, or providing for compensation real property to modify that real property or provide a higher degree of care for a person with a disability than for a person who is not disabled, except as provided in § 36-99.5, nor shall anything in this section require any person who is selling, renting, leasing, or providing for compensation real property to sell, rent, lease or provide such property to any person who would constitute a direct threat to the property or safety of others.

A. Any circuit court having jurisdiction and venue pursuant to Title 8.01, on the petition of any person with a disability, shall have the right to enjoin the abridgement of rights set forth in this chapter and to order such affirmative equitable relief as is appropriate and to award compensatory damages and to award to a prevailing party reasonable attorney fees, except that a defendant shall not be entitled to an award of attorney fees unless the court finds that the claim was frivolous, unreasonable or groundless, or brought in bad faith.  Compensatory damages shall not include damages for pain and suffering.  Punitive damages shall not be awarded.

B. An action may be commenced pursuant to this section any time within one year of the occurrence of any violation of rights under this chapter.  However, such action shall be forever barred unless such claimant or his agent, attorney or representative has commenced such action or has filed by registered mail a written statement of the nature of the claim with the potential defendant or defendants within 180 days of the occurrence of the alleged violation.  Any liability for back pay shall not accrue from a date more than 180 days prior to the filing of the notice or the initial pleading in such civil action and shall be limited to a total of 180 days, reduced by the amount of other earnings over the same period.  The petitioner shall have a duty to mitigate damages.

C. The relief available for violations of this chapter shall be limited to the relief set forth in this section.