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John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan


Service Animals at the Detroit VA: What You Need to Know

Service animals are often brought into the Detroit VA. We thought it might be a good time to make sure our staff and our patients know the VA rules and regulations surrounding these important animals!

The VA understands the important role of service animals in the lives of Veterans and VA visitors. Announced in 2015, VA regulation 38 CFR 1.218 (a)(11) aligns with federal law, and sets clear guidelines for both Veterans and staff.

Note: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does NOT apply to the VA. However, VA regulation 38 CFR 1218(011) has many similar standards. We appreciate your cooperation in following these rules to create a safe place for everyone!

WHERE can service animals NOT go on VA Property?

Service animals can access the same areas as the general public. However, they cannot enter certain areas for safety and infection control reasons, such as:

  • Operating rooms and pre-operative areas , invasive procedure areas
  • Inpatient rooms (unless the service animal is part of a treatment plan for that particular patient)
  • Decontamination rooms, sterile processing and storage areas
  • Areas where chemicals are stored or mixed
  • Food preparation areas (food service are allowed)
  • Areas where personal protective clothing is worn


Q:  Can my animal (not a dog), be a service animal?
A:  NO. Under the law, only a fully trained dog is considered a service animal.

Q:  What is “VA Property”?: 
A:  Any property owned or leased by VA. This includes the main medical center, community clinics (CBOCs), and all office space.

Q:  How do you know if my dog is a service animal?
A:  Sometimes, this is obvious, such as a seeing-eye dog. If we are unsure, we may ask you the following two questions:

  1. Is your dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or tasks has your dog been trained to perform? The work or tasks your dog performs must be related to your disability.

Q:  Are dogs in training allowed?
A:  No. Your dog must be fully trained to access VA property.

Q:  My dog gives me emotional support or comfort, or helps me feel safe. Is my dog allowed at the VA?
A:  No. Under the law, these dogs are not considered service animals.

Q:  Are PTSD service dogs allowed?
A:  Yes. If your dog is trained to help you with a specific task related to your PTSD, he is allowed. You must be able to tell us what that task is.

Q:  What about “therapy” dogs?
A:  Only service dogs are allowed.

Q:  When can my service dog be removed from VA property?
A:  You will be asked to remove your dog if it is not under your control, if it is not house broken, if it is sick or shows signs of infection, or if it is aggressive. If your dog is removed, we must give you the chance to receive your care without your dog on VA property.

Q:  What if I need help with my dog?
A:  VA staff cannot care for your dog. Please have an alternate handler identified for your dog for when you need help or emergency care.

Summary: What the law says and what you need to know.

Again, we must make sure our staff, patients and their families are safe at all times.

  • Under federal law and VA regulations, only dogs that are trained as service animals to perform work or tasks for a disabled person will be allowed on VA property. No other species of animals is allowed.
  • Service dogs may access the same areas of the general public. However, service dogs may be kept out of certain areas for patient care and safety, or for infection control purposes.
  • Owners are solely responsible for their service dogs.
  • Service dogs must be on a leash and under control at all times. If the disabled person cannot physically use a leash, the dog must be under voice control.
  • Detroit VA staff cannot be asked to care for service dogs.

For more information on service dogs and the VA policy and regulations, please click on the following links:

In recent years, the VA has updated its laws and regulations surrounding service dogs on property. These laws are designed to keep all patients and visitors safe.
Under federal law and VA regulations, only dogs that are trained as service animals to perform work or tasks for a disabled person will be allowed on VA property. No other species of animals is allowed.