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Access Laws for Guide Dog Users: U.S.

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Virginia

Virginia Statutes; Code of Virginia, Chapter 9, Sections 51.5-44 through 51.5-46, amended 1994

Virginia statutory law guarantees a blind person the legal right to be accompanied by a dog guide in all public accommodations and on all public transportation. A dog guide user is also guaranteed equal housing accommodation, but the landlord is not required to modify the property or provide a higher standard of care than that provided other tenants. No extra charge can be levied because of a dog guide's presence, but the dog guide user is liable for any damage the dog might cause to the premises. Dog guides are exempt from licensing fees. Also, it is the policy of the state of Virginia to endorse equal employment opportunity to blind persons in its state service, the service of its political subdivisions and public schools, and in employment supported in whole or part by public funds, except when the visual disability prevents performance of the work involved.

Public accommodations include hotels, stores, restaurants, places of resort and amusement, and any other place to which the general public is invited. (Sect. 51.5-44)

Public transportation includes airplanes, boats, trains, buses, taxis, common carriers, and all other modes of conveyances offered for public use. (Sect. 51.5-44)

Housing accommodations include any real property or portion thereof designed or used as a home, residence, or sleeping place offered for rent, lease, or compensation, except for a single family dwelling, the occupants of which offer no more than one room for rent. (Sect. 51.5-45)

Violation: In any action in which the petitioner is represented by the Department for Rights of Virginians with Disabilities or the Attorney General's office, no attorneys' fees shall be awarded, nor shall the Department for Rights of Virginians with Disabilities have the authority to institute any class action under this chapter.

Any person, firm, corporation or agent thereof who interferes with the above enumerated rights is liable for affirmative equitable relief as is appropriate. An award for compensatory damages and reasonable attorney's fees may be awarded, except that a defendant shall not be entitled to an award for attorney's fees if the court finds that the claim was frivolous. Compensatory damages shall not include damages for pain and suffering. Punitive or exemplary damages shall not be awarded.

An action may be commenced pursuant to this section at 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, within 180 days of the occurrence. (Sect. 51.5-46)

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