Proposed Iowa Law Would License Service Dog Trainers

PHOTO: Paws & Effect

Reacting to reports of inadequately trained service animals, Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy will propose 2015 legislation that will require the licensure of all service dog trainers every other year. Service dog trainers would be required to meet minimum standards established by Assistance Dogs International (A.D.I.), a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based coalition of not-for-profit organizations that promotes the professional and ethical training of animals.

A formal statement from the office of Sen. McCoy is pending.

Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy

McCoy is a Democrat who represents District 21 in Polk County, with constituents in Des Moines, West Des Moines, and Cumming. He has served in the Iowa state legislature since 1997.

McCoy's proposed legislation will also create a process by which handlers could be provided a way to identify a trained service animal.

The Americans with Disability Act (A.D.A.) and other federal laws prohibit requiring special licenses, registrations, or uniforms for service animals. Business owners and property managers must provide access to handlers using service animals, unless the animal creates an unsafe or unhealthy environment.

"Service animals are trained to perform specific physical tasks to offset his or her disabilities," says Paws & Effect Executive Director Nicole Shumate. "These are not 'companions,' or 'pets,' or 'emotional assistance' animals. Instead, these working dogs provide their handlers guidance, mobility, and confidence—keys to an improved quality of life."

Established in 2006, Paws & Effect is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises, trains, and places service dogs with military veterans and children diagnosed with medical needs. The organization also registers therapy animals through Pet Partners, and hosts community dog-agility trials as fund-raising events.

"Inadequately trained animals and those fraudulently represented as service dogs create a a risk to the public, diluting the strength of public access laws for those individuals who adhere to accessibility laws," Shumate says.

"We are supporting Sen. McCoy's legislative efforts because licensing service dog trainers is a step toward protecting service dog recipients."