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A Huge Victory for Service Dog Handlers in Maryland

By Melissa Allman, Sr. Specialist, Advocacy & Government Relations

A yellow Lab and GSD in harness, seated in front of a artistic mashup of the NJ and MD state flags.

One of the things we love about our Seeing Eye graduates is the grass roots advocacy and education they undertake. Over a year ago, Seeing Eye graduate Matt Hackert began working with his legislators and other constituents to get a law passed that would give people with guide and other service dogs the right to keep their dogs in housing covered by the Fair Housing Act after the dog retires without having to pay pet fees. New Jersey is the only other state that has a law with this protection, so Matt reached out to The Seeing Eye for model legislation. Check out the New Jersey law here.

Due to the hard work of Matt and others, Maryland bills SB 535 and HB 608 were signed into law in April. Take a look at the bill texts here.

This is a huge victory for guide and other service dog handlers who are renters faced with hard decisions about where their retired dogs will live out the rest of their lives. It can be very difficult for service dog handlers who realize the time has come to retire a dog who has worked tirelessly and faithfully for them for much of its life, only to learn that under federal and state Fair Housing laws, their dog is now considered to be a pet. These handlers often must rehome their retired partners due to no-pets policies or pet fees that are too costly.

On Monday, July 24 at 1:00 P.M., Matt will discuss this law during a presentation by the Maryland Civil Rights Commission about access rights and interacting with service animal teams. Don’t miss it! Sign up here.

If you want to propose similar legislation in your state, you can use the New Jersey or Maryland laws as model legislation and reach out to your state legislators.