Service Dog Laws in Virginia – Easy Guide, FAQ + more (2022)

Virginia Service Dog Laws

Service Dog Laws in Virginia

Welcome to our updated 2022 article for service dog laws in Virginia. Service dog laws can be confusing, but in this article we’ll go through the different federal service animal laws and any laws that are specific to Virginia. Individual states may have their own service animal laws, too.

What Service Dogs Can Do

Service dogs are specially trained animals who help people who live with disabilities.

Learn about service dog laws with regards to public access rights, housing, employment, what businesses need to know, and so much more. Also we’ll go through some common FAQs.

Or, check out service animal laws by state, service animal in training laws by state, or our federal ADA service dog laws guide.

Service dog laws in Virginia
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Jump to a section:

  1. What is a Service Dog? The Different Definitions
  2. Registration & Certification
  3. What are Work or Tasks?
  4. Emotional Support Animals
  5. Is it Illegal to Have a Fake Service Dog in Virginia?
  6. Does Virginia Recognize Emotional Support Dogs?
  7. Do Service Dogs Have to Wear a Vest?
  8. Service Dogs in Training
  9. Can an Emotional Support Animal go Anywhere?
Service dog definitions Virginia
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1. What is a Service Dog? The Different Definitions

There are multiple definitions of service dog, service animal, and assistance animal. It all depends on the context. For example:

The ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – is a federal law, and governs the use of service dogs when public access rights are concerned. The ADA also comes into play for other scenarios, such as employment and education.

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

ADA – FAQ

Read more: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws Easy Guide & FAQ

Fair Housing Act Definition of Service Animal Virginia
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The FHA – Fair Housing Act is another federal law, in place for people with disabilities and rights in housing situations. The Fair Housing Act has a slightly different definition of what they call “assistance animal.” This broader definition uniquely includes emotional support animals.

An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.

Assistance Animals – U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Air Carrier Access Act ACAA Definition of Service Dog
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The ACAA – or Air Carrier Access Act – is yet another federal law and is used when people with disabilities will be taking to the air with their service dog.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.

U.S. Department of TransportationOpens in a new tab.

Read more: American Airlines Service Dog Info Easy Guide & FAQ

Autism Service Dog Doodle
Autism Service Dog @service.doodle.piperOpens in a new tab.

2. Service Dog Laws in Virginia – Registration & Certification

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. Service dog laws in Virginia, as well as the federal laws, do not indicate the need for service animals to be registered or certified.

I repeat, service animals do not need to be registered or certified for public access rights, housing, or air travel.

Service Animal Registration Not Necessary

In fact, federal legitimate service animal registration and certification simply does not exist. It is not a thing.

If you find websites online that may be selling service dog or emotional support animal registrations, these are not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act,Opens in a new tab. nor the Department of Justice. Opens in a new tab.

Buying a piece of paper from the internet does not turn a dog into a service dog. Reference: ADA Frequently Asked Questions. Opens in a new tab.

Service dog registration and certification Virginia
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3. What Are Service Dog Work or Tasks?

Wondering what these service dog work or tasks are, exactly? There are a wide variety of service dog tasks, too many to even list here.

Service dogs must be trained to take a specific action when it is needed to help someone with the characteristics or affects of their disability.

A few examples are:

  • Service dogs can alert someone with diabetes when their blood sugar reaches dangerously high or low levels
  • Service dogs can help people who live with depression to remind them to take their medication
  • Service dogs can help a person with epilepsy to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure
  • Service dogs can help people with autism by interrupting repetitive behaviours, or keeping a child with autism from wandering off and getting lost, among other tasks
  • Psychiatric service dogs can do many different tasks for people living with PTSDOpens in a new tab. and other conditions, including waking someone up from a nightmare
  • Guide dogs can help with navigation for people who are blind or living with low vision

Read more: The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks Opens in a new tab. or Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Extraordinary Examples

service dog work or tasks
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4. Emotional Support Animals

The first difference between emotional support animals and service animals is that service animals are individually trained for a specific person’s disability; emotional support animals are not usually trained at all, beyond basic dog training.

Currently, emotional support animals do not have the same rights as service dogs under the ADA laws for public access rights.

In terms of air travel, the ACAA’s definition of service animal does not include emotional support animals. Emotional support animals are still able to travel in the air as pets.

service dog laws in Virginia, FAQ and emotional support dogs
Multipurpose Service Dog @katelynburelleOpens in a new tab.

In housing is where things get interesting. The FHA or Fair Housing Act’s definition of “assistance animal” for housing includes emotional support animals.

In other words, a service dog team must be permitted access to any place the public can go (with a few exceptions).

An emotional support animal can be denied access to air travel and public places, but may certainly have rights when it comes to housing.

Read more: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog

border collie service dog Virginia
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5. Is it Illegal to Have a Fake Service Dog in Virginia?

Yes, it’s illegal to have a fake service dog in Virginia. Unfortunately, fake service dogs have become a real concern, and sadly cause more problems for legitimate service dog teams who are merely trying to go about their lives. Anyone caught trying to pass off a fake service dog in Virginia will be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanour. This law came into effect in July of 2016. The maximum fine is $250.

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 § 51.5-44Opens in a new tab. is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Virginia CodeOpens in a new tab.
Medical alert service dog Virginia
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6. Does Virginia Recognize Emotional Support Dogs?

Emotional support animals are not recognized in Virginia in terms of public access rights or for air travel in air plane cabins. However, under the federal Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals are included in their definition of “assistance animal” and have some rights.

In other words, emotional support animals in Virginia can be denied access to public places like restaurants, and from traveling in the cabin of an air plane, but not necessarily in housing.

Service Dog Laws in Virginia
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7. Do Service Dogs Have to Wear a Vest in Virginia?

No, service dogs aren’t required to wear a vest in Virginia or in any other state. This is according to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service dogs must be trained for a person with a disability, and must be under control at all times, but aren’t required to wear a vest, ID tag, or special cape, and are not required to be registered or certified.

Autism Service Dog Virginia
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8. Do Service Dogs in Training Have Public Access in Virginia?

While the federal ADA laws do not include rights for service animals in training, most states have their own laws that address it. In Virginia, service dog trainers who are engaged in training have the same rights and privileges with regard to public access rights. The trainer is liable for any damages that the service animal in training might be responsible for.

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.

Virginia CodeOpens in a new tab.
Psychiatric Service Dog Virginia
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9. Can an Emotional Support Animal go Anywhere?

No, emotional support animals can not just go anywhere. Emotional support dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs have public access rights and are permitted almost anywhere the public is allowed, including in the cabin of air planes and housing. Emotional support animals can be denied access to anywhere that isn’t pet friendly, and aren’t permitted in airplane cabins.

Emotional support animals are included in the Fair Housing Act’s definition of assistance animal for housing purposes, so therefore, have some rights in renting and housing situations.

Read more: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog

Service dog and service dog in training Virginia
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Sam Nelson

Sam Nelson is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

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