Service Dog Advocacy


Ever feel like the world’s far from perfect—but then you realize you can make a big difference with a little help? Joining us in an advocacy campaign is an empowering and surprisingly effective way to make that difference!

This page contains a record of PSDP’s service dog advocacy work, including current campaigns to improve the world—or to stop it from being made worse. This is where *you* can have a real impact as an individual!

Details about PSDP’s coalition-based advocacy actions for organizations are in our USAUSA section. You can read about our community taking the initiative in our Community Member Spotlight.

Click on an underlined title to see our statement on that service dog advocacy issue.

 

Canada National Service Dog Standard

June, 2017–July 14, 2017: North American rules affect all of us. PSDP & USAUSA strive to protect Canadians and prospective visitors from invasive government overreach in the form of a detailed national standard. This standard would violate individuals’ disability rights and harm programs and trainers.

How to help…

Follow the linked title above to see details about the situation and to read our response. We are soliciting organization sign-ons through June 21st, and then we will need the supportive comments of individuals to make our voices heard. Let’s stand up for each other!

Update, June 22nd, 2017: Some groups needed more time to approve a sign-on, so we’ve extended the group sign-on deadline to Friday, June 23rd.

Update, June 26th–July 14th, 2017: With the sign-on support of 14 other organizations, we submitted our comment. Now is the time for individuals to help! To do your part, you can use the comment form linked just below to simply refer to USAUSA’s comment and let them know you support it. It can take less than a minute, even if you personalize your message (recommended). Whether you’re a Canadian, a prospective tourist, or simply a world citizen concerned with disability rights, they need to hear your voice!

http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ongc-cgsb/programme-program/normes-standards/notification/comment-secret-eng.html

 

Canadian Accessibility Legislation

July 2016–February 28th, 2017: Currently, Canadian access laws are quite a patchwork on a lot of issues—legal rights vary from province to province. Canada is gathering input to inform prospective nationwide accessibility laws of limited scope.

How to help…

There were two ways to help before the February 28th, 2017 deadline. (1) Email the Office for Disability Issues. Let them know your concerns, and feel free to let them know you support PSDP’s letter. (2) Take the survey. It is not specific to service dogs and it’s lengthy, but you might learn something and help shape the accessibility landscape in Canada. Our Director of Government Relations’ personal survey responses are available through Google, which may help (these answers are not made on PSDP’s behalf).

 

U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief

August 29th, 2016: PSDP is doing its part to educate the highest court in the land about service dogs in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools. Other service dog groups have joined us in a “friend of the court” brief, submitted on our behalf by one of our advisors, attorney John Ensminger.

The school system in this case is doubly in the wrong. First, they think a service dog should be treated like a lesson plan they can expertly modify, rather than like a wheelchair they can’t. Second, they think it’s okay to give a free pass to guide dog users, but to put up barriers for any other type of service dog user. These things are not okay, and they are worth fighting against.

Our hope is that at least one Justice will positively reference our brief in a ruling for the Frys. This could make it so future case law developments would clarify that the term “guide dog” in legacy laws and policies should be interpreted simply as “service dog”. Success for our arguments would also mean that school systems will have a harder time putting up years-wasting administrative obstacles when a child reasonably needs the assistance of a service dog today.

How to help…

We sincerely appreciate your moral and financial support. This kind of effort takes a lot of both!

Update, November 4th, 2016: The case was argued on October 31st and we’re waiting for a ruling. The transcript is now available.

Update, February 23rd, 2017: The court vacated and remanded the case. What’s really important for us is that the justices provided clear criteria for future cases in the syllabus of their decision:

One clue to the gravamen of a complaint can come from asking a pair of hypothetical questions. First, could the plaintiff have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school? Second, could an adult at the school have pressed essentially the same grievance? When the answer to those questions is yes, a complaint that does not expressly allege the denial of a FAPE [free appropriate public education] is also unlikely to be truly about that subject. But when the answer is no, then the complaint probably does concern a FAPE. 

If attorneys in future cases involving service dogs in schools are careful to avoid seeking relief under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), gaining access with a service dog should be a more straightforward matter of access under the ADA and §504. This means those attempting to gain access should not have to wade through an administrivial swamp of IDEA remedies, which can be (and have been) used to stymie access for years for some individuals.

PSDP is proud to be a part of this historic Supreme Court decision. We are sincerely grateful to John Ensminger for putting together our amicus brief.

 

ACAA Rulemaking Comment

December 23rd, 2015–present: The Department of Transportation is deciding how best to update the airline access laws for people with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act/ACAA regulations currently discriminate against people with psychiatric disabilities in a blatant way. We’re looking to represent a fair-minded, well-reasoned approach in the coming rulemaking.

How to help…

Update, January 22nd, 2016: Thanks to community members who participated in saying we can represent your interest in equal rights among the service dog community. We’re in touch with the convenor, and we’ll have more opportunities in the future for your involvement! Details will be available through the page linked to from the underlined title above.

Update, January 30th, 2016: Our ACAA committee created a proposal to meet everyone’s needs. Now we need your input (by Feb. 4th), so check it out then share your thoughts!

Update, February 5th, 2016: We’re using our community’s excellent feedback and overwhelming support and working to get other stakeholder groups on board with our cooperative proposal. We’ll let you know when you can make another difference in the process!

Update, February 22nd, 2016: The convener issued his report, and he said the service animal issues are among the most promising for a Reg Neg.

Update, March 7th, 2016: We now have an article that explains the thinking and justifications that led to our proposal:

Design Challenges and Solutions for Service Animal Access under the ACAA: A Justificatory Guide for Regulators and Stakeholders

Update, March 21st, 2016: After meeting with several national disability advocacy groups in Washington, DC, we added an addendum to the article linked above (the latest version is available through that link). This addendum lays to rest concerns prospective supporters may have about our proposal. Thanks to all the groups that gave us valuable feedback!

Update, April 7th, 2016: The Reg Neg is happening, and we submitted a letter nominating our Director of Government Relations to represent service animal user advocates!

Update, April 28th, 2016: Our Director of Government Relations will be on the ACAA ACCESS Advisory Committee. Success!

Update, November 29th, 2016: The Reg Neg meetings are over, with no consensus report on service animals. However, there was a lot that many parties could agree on, so under the heading of “United Service Animal Users, Supporters, and Advocates” (USAUSA), Brad Morris and Jenine Stanley informed DOT of that support for detailed compromise positions. This public comment is expected to guide the rulemaking process, and community members are welcome to write in with support or wait for our NPRM comment.

Update, December 13th, 2016: Between December 7th and 10th, we held a survey at DOT’s request. DOT’s consultant, Econometrica, sought information regarding the burdens associated with the current regulations’ medical documentation requirement. The results are presented in our report to DOT, which is posted as a public comment in the Reg Neg docket.

Update, February 23rd, 2017: At the invitation of the Canadian Transportation Agency, we publicly submitted our documents for consideration in Canada’s prospective regulation update.

 

WIOA Comment

March 9th, 2016–March 28th, 2016: The Department of Labor (DOL) worked to update regulations for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which includes service dog provisions. The deadline for public comments was March 28th, 2016.

Update, December 2nd, 2016: As reported in John Ensminger’s Dog Law Reporter blog, DOL finalized its rule.

 

Illinois HB5807 Service Dog License Comment

June 12th, 2016–present: Sadly, Illinois has leaned on intolerant ADI standards to put forward a law that would benefit ADI’s business, but harm those with disabilities. What’s more, the bill (HB5807) is clearly contrary to federal law.

How to help…

We’ve contacted the bill’s sponsor, the members of the Rules Committee, and the members of the Business & Occupational Licenses Committee—who, jarringly, unanimously passed the bill out of their committee on April 5th, 2016. We are determined to make it clear to these folks that HB5807 and any future similar bill should never be passed!

If you agree with our comment, add your politely passionate voice so they know how important this is. Click on the heading for more information.

 

Service Dog Registry (ActiveDogs)

May 2nd, 2016–present: Service dog IDs and service dog registries harm our community. Our open letter to ActiveDogs.com explains why, asking them to at least take down the recently installed registry.

How to help

We’re giving ActiveDogs time to respond to our open letter. We are hopeful for a positive reply, but if they need to hear from their prospective customers to understand the impact of our community’s dissatisfaction, we will update you here and ask for your help!

Update, May 6th, 2016: ActiveDogs has not been active in replying to us. Please click on the underlined headline above to see what you can do!

 

Service Dog Memes

August 27, 2015–present: Who said advocacy couldn’t be fun? If you want to change the world, leverage social media…

 

“There Are No Fake Vests”

October 6, 2014–present: In 2013, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) began a petition to stop the online sale of so-called “fake” service dog equipment. News outlets picked up this theme and began to run a marathon with it that continues to this day.

Unfortunately, while CCI is right to question any “certification” sold without a genuine evaluation, CCI inadvertently campaigned to make things harder for people with disabilities when they claimed that “fake” service dog vests are being sold online. Tired of this ongoing knock against the disability community, PSDP’s board of directors finally had to speak up in a clear statement that implores CCI to reconsider their approach.

How to help…

You can help! Not only can you *not* sign CCI’s petition or pledge, but you can take an active lead by linking or referring to our “There Are No Fake Vests” statement in a personal comment whenever you see CCI’s petition or pledge mentioned in the media. If you’re feeling bolder, you can write directly to CCI to help them realize their actions are working against our community. Please only be polite and professional; write in a way that will not inflame, but persuade. You can contact CCI either via marketing@cci.org or their contact form.

 

Service Animal Relief Area Comment

May 26th–June 6th, 2016: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) solicited comments on a new draft of an advisory circular, which contains recommendations for airports’ service animal relief areas (SARAs).

How to help…

Feel free to read through the advisory circular draft (more info is on the page linked by the title above) and use the federal register site to send in any comments you have! Overall, we are very pleased with FAA’s diligence in information-gathering and incorporating users’ considerations.

 

Arizona SB 1166

February 7, 2016–March 17, 2016: State senators in Arizona are updating the language of their basic service animal laws through State Bill 1166. Most of the updates are to bring existing statutes in line with the DOJ’s ADA regulations, but we advise strongly against an addition that is conspicuously contrary to the letter and spirit of federal disability law.

How to help…

If you agree with our comment (linked in the heading above), feel free to express your support of our reasoning and position by contacting the senators responsible for the bill. You can contact them through the Arizona legislature website—their individual pages and contact forms are a couple of clicks away from the main page for SB 1166:

http://www.azleg.gov/DocumentsForBill.asp?Bill_Number=1166&Session_Id=115&image.x=0&image.y=0

Update, February 13, 2016: The senators seem to have gotten our message very clearly and have struck out the provisions that would have required a variety of documentation and gear markings. The amended bill is still working its way through the state senate, but we no longer have to worry about its (original) worst additions to the statutes!

Update, March 17, 2016: In a close vote after heartfelt testimony on both sides, the bill didn’t make it out of the House Government and Higher Education committee.

 

Michigan Joint Committee Meeting Comment

June 10th–June 11th, 2015: Michigan is in the process of considering new laws concerning service animals. Some of the proposals are helpful, but we have strong critiques of portions of the bills in question.

Update, June 17th, 2015: In some very exciting news for those who feel powerless to effect positive political change, soon after we submitted our comment, the legislators introduced substitute bills with radical improvements. According to the records we accessed, no other testifier provided a critique of the bills, and the changes are specifically in line with our requests. We take these as signs that our actions have had a direct and resounding impact on the legislative process. Visit the link above for more details on the effects of our comment!

Update, October 22nd, 2015: The long process of these bills becoming laws is over! On October 21st, the Governor approved the four bills with the bulk of our recommendations in effect. PSDP community advocacy works! (Note that we are adamantly opposed to the “voluntary registry” Michigan created, and only celebrate the many positive changes we were able to make.)

 

Veterans Affairs 38 CFR 1.218(a)(11) Comment

November 21, 2014–January 20, 2015: The language of past VA regulations made it seem like local VA facilities could make up whatever service dog policies they wanted—and so they did. These new proposed regulations aim to fix that by bringing all VA facilities in line with existing general federal regulations that apply to VA property. Even though the DOJ’s regulations on the ADA don’t apply to federal property, the existing regulations (general to federal property) and proposed regulations (specific to VA property) roughly follow the reasoning of the DOJ/ADA.

We appreciate the spirit of the proposed regulations, but the VA proposal needed some help to be sure it safeguards disability rights, honors the weight of scientific evidence, and incorporates the expertise of our experienced community members. We worked hard to give sound reasoning and specific advice in our VA comment. What affects some of our service dog community members affects all of us together, so we appreciate the help of those who joined us in submitting comments!

Update, August 15th, 2015: Wow—we did it again! Policymakers really listened to our community’s comments. Visit our Veterans Affairs 38 CFR 1.218(a)(11) Comment page to see all the wonderful ways the proposed regulations were modified in response to our recommendations! These changes will positively serve VA patients, visitors, and staff for years to come.

 

Wisconsin Medicaid Benefit Comment

September 2, 2014: In Wisconsin, U.S., the Department of Health Services (Division of Long Term Care, Office of Family Care Expansion) solicited comments [page now removed] on their “Draft Family Care 1915(c) HCBS Renewal Application” [page also removed]. This draft included language to expand Medicaid benefits in Wisconsin to include the purchase of and routine veterinary care for service dogs. Unfortunately, and to the detriment of our community, the draft language did not allow for owner-trainers to take full advantage of the benefit. We explain this, why the problem should be rectified, and how to fix it in our comment (linked to in the title just above this paragraph).

Update, October 15, 2014: It appears that the new version of the draft contains changes to the language pertaining to service dog benefits. These changes (on pages 50 and 51) seem to include benefits for “upkeep and veterinarian services” of “trained service animals”, but there doesn’t seem to be anything restricting the application of these benefits to only program-trained dogs (which is good). On the other hand, it appears the drafters failed to take our central advice to allow the purchasing benefit to apply to a service dog prospect for an owner-trainer, since a service dog prospect would not already be a “trained service” animal at the point of purchase. However, if the waiver application is successful, how the program would actually work depends on the people and regulations implementing the benefits, so there is still room for our service dog advocacy efforts to have a positive influence for our community.

 

AODA Comment

June 30th, 2014: In Canada, a Legislative Review committee solicited comments on proposed revisions to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), including modifications pertaining to service animals. We credit the revisions where due, but warn the committee that their seemingly minor revisions have potential for a majorly negative impact in the lives of service animals users. We detail these aspects and provide specific suggestions to improve the revisions in our comment, linked to just in the title above this paragraph.

Update, February 13th, 2015: The Legislative Review report was released. The recommendations in the report are not specific to service animals.

Update, July 1st, 2016: The proposed revision on which we commented was revoked.

 

National Park Comment

June 17th, 2014: The United States National Park Service solicited comments on a proposed rule regarding service animals. While much of the proposed rule is good, we contend that some aspects need to be modified to intelligently balance the needs of the disabled with the need to protect wildlife. Our comment is on the page linked to in the title just above this paragraph.

 

Veterans Affairs P.L. 112-154 Statement

November 9th, 2012: House Resolution 1627 was passed into law an August 6th, 2012 as Public Law 112-154 by the United States Congress. When it became clear to PSDP that there were several misunderstandings about what this law does and does not say about service dog access on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) property (in Section 109 of the law), PSDP decided to release a statement to clarify what the law means in isolation. Note that in 2012, public access for those using service dogs on VA property seemed to be a legal minefield, since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to federal property, yet a host of other relevant laws do, and these laws had been subjected to conflicting interpretations in recent years.

Update, August 15, 2015: See the entry and page regarding our Veterans Affairs 38 CFR 1.218(a)(11) Comment, which overshadows any hypothetical discussion about the meaning of P.L. 112-154. In that entry (above), we link to a proposed rule, in which VA clearly shares our view of P.L. 112-154, but goes even further in a direction favorable to owner-trainers of service dogs. Our comment itself contains a discussion of P.L. 112-154 and references an associated document that justifies our interpretation. The final rule and VA’s discussion of it couldn’t be clearer as to whether anything like ADI certification is required for VA access (it’s not!).