Paul Mimms and Shadow, just walking thru the neighborhood
Paul Mimms and Shadow

Formerly a BVA Special Interest Group known as: Council of Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers (CVGSDH)

Often the extraordinary and traumatic experiences responsible for onset of vision loss by blind veterans are outside the scope of understanding of members of other guide dog or service dog interest groups.
Our intent is to perform our mission on behalf of veterans with dogs that qualify for acceptance by the VA as the “Dog of Record.” Participation in the Dog Handlers Committee is open to those veterans using dogs primarily for amelioration of medical challenges, and does not intend to include comfort, emotional support, or other dogs primarily performing support for non-medical challenges.

Code of Conduct

Guidelines - Adopted Jul 2015

Pick up after your dog. Leaving waste behind from your dog is irresponsible and unfair to other teams who will encounter it.

Keep your dog on leash and with you at all times when in public places. It is not acceptable to leave your dog under a table while you wander off to do something else. Remember, your dog is not at home and is not going to react in the same way it does when it is calm and relaxed.

Ensure your dog is not a tripping hazard and is either tucked in at your side, under your chair or under a table when attending meetings. When standing in a group setting such as a crowded reception, please take care to hold your dog close to you by shortening the leash and holding it closer to your dog’s neck. If your dog lies down in this situation, ensure that it is tucked in and is not a tripping hazard.

If your dog is stressed out by the conference setting, kindly remove your dog from the setting and try to resolve the issue; if the issue cannot be resolved and the dog becomes a disturbance, you will be asked to either: 1) remove your dog and return without it, or 2) leave the proceedings.

Never feed your dog in public places; this is distracting to other working dogs.

Remember to give your dog extra relieving opportunities; you are not at home and the dog is under more stress and may require additional chances in the relieving area.

Know your dog; if it cannot be left alone, do not leave it in your hotel room. If your dog creates any damage to the premises, you will be responsible. Further, barking due to separation anxiety is not acceptable in a hotel or public lodging facility. Keep other guests in mind as you decide whether or not your dog can be left on its own.

Try to establish a play area for your dog during conference. This might be a room devoid of chairs and tables where, once dogs have relieved, they can run and frolic. Never use public hallways for this purpose.

If your dog is bothered by another more aggressive dog, calmly talk with the other handler and try to arrange not to sit near each other. If this does not work or cannot be resolved, talk with the conference coordinator in charge of service dog-related issues to request intervention.

Everyone works their dog differently; kindly refrain from making judgments about fellow conferees and how they work with their dogs. No two teams are alike; show other teams the respect you want shown to you in return.

We, and our service dogs, shall be appropriate and comply with BVA policy; all local, state, and federal laws, regulations, rules, and animal ordinances at all times.

Adopted by Dog Handlers Committee – July 2015


Join Us

Membership and participation in the Dog Handlers Committee is open to blind veterans currently teamed with a guide or service dog, former handlers, and potential blind veteran guide or service dog training candidates.
Interested guide and service dog training schools are welcome to collaborate with the Committee to assist in execution of the mission through reinforcement of education, activity support, and information dissemination.

Conference Call / Meeting Information
Interaction throughout the year, between annual BVA conventions, will be conducted via monthly virtual meetings. Anyone with an interest in guide and service dogs and their veteran handlers are welcome to join these meetings. The virtual meetings will be conducted on the Zoom platform.

  Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 4:00pm Eastern, 3:00pm Central, 2:00pm Mountain, and 1:00pm Pacific.


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Listing of Committee Members

Michaun Harrison, Chair


Paul L. Mimms, Vice-Chair


Wade Davis


Irena Howard, BVA Auxiliary


Timothy Hornik, HQ Staff


The purpose of the Dog Handlers Committee is to:


Serve blinded military veterans who are teamed with guide dogs or service dogs through support, education, information, and advocacy.


Promote the use of the veteran/dog team; and best practices by the team, family, and other entities.


Promote and maximize the relationship of the veteran/dog partnership, the accredited schools, and the family involved for a positive and lasting experience.


Work with the various teams in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a resource to advocate for upgraded policies and practices through education, information, and advocacy to more effectively create an environment of proper conduct/etiquette within the VA for the safety and best practices of VA personnel and (veteran) clients.


Define the responsibilities of the veteran with a guide/service dog and etiquette to be practiced regardless of where the veteran/dog team is.


Serve as a sounding board and information group to veterans with legitimate (trained; accredited) Dogs of Record.


The mission of the Dog Handlers Committee is to:

1. Assist veterans to build independence, dignity, and positive relationships;

a) By being a resource for veterans in choosing an accredited training facility/program when considering a partner guide/service dog; this committee does not evaluate the training facilities/program, that is the responsibility of the accreditation authorities (such as ADI and IGDF);

b) Promoting and assisting family members to understand their role and the relationship between the veteran and partner dog;

c) Being an advocate for veteran with accredited guide and service dog training facilities;

d) Working with veterans, accredited trainers, and family members to develop a plan for understanding roles and relationships for the guide/service dog partners and family.


2. Work with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for education, information, and advocacy regarding the policies and practices involving guide and service dogs on federal properties;

a) VA Central Office– especially Blind Rehabilitation Services; and Prosthetics and Sensory Aids leadership;

b) VA Medical Centers (VAMCs); and VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs);

c) Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) Coordinators; and Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (BROS), including;

>Pre-approval qualifications and other benefits

>“Dogs of Record” – Process and Policies

>“Champions” for guide/service dogs

>Education, information, and advocacy

3. Veteran Responsibilities and Rights;

Define and promote proper conduct and etiquette in daily life of the guide/service dog partners/team regardless of where travels take the partners and/or family.

In doing so, the Dog Handlers Committee seeks to assist veterans, family members, accredited guide/service dog training facilities, VA policies, programs, facilities and employees in maximizing the positive relationships, training, and experiences of those involved by promoting the independence and dignity of the veteran as a guide/service dog team.

This committee does not intend to include participants with comfort dogs, emotional support dogs, or other dogs primarily performing support for psychological challenges. It is in support of those veterans using or desiring to obtain a “Dog of Record;” using dogs primarily for amelioration or mitigation of physical challenges.

Meeting Minutes

15 September 2020

BVA Guide Dog User Group
2020/09/15 Committee Meeting
W. Rae Hail (Board Committee Chair and Co- Founder) opened the conference call meeting at 11:03 am PT and turned the forum over to Paul Mimms (Founder and Moderator). Paul, in turn, took roll call, introduced himself and asked each person in turn to share with the group.
Committee Members Present:
Rae Hail, BVA Chair, DD4, GD Handler
Paul Mimms, BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler
Patti Hail, BVAA
Irena Howard, BVA, GD Handler
Annie Chiappetta, BVAA, GD Handler
Other BVA Board Members and Interested Participants:
Kevin Jackson, DD6
Dennis O’Connell, DD1, GD Handler
Eileen Vasquez, BVA RG Pres
Jerry Hogan, BVA, GD Handler
As each individual shared, many ideas were brought forward and hopes for the committee. Paul told an abbreviated history of the CVGSDH (Council of Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers) Special Interest Group of the BVA and the “coming of age” of the group to now be a recognized committee of the BVA. Many Thanks to those who made that happen.
This first meeting was a forum format so that ideas, thoughts, and more could be shared. Below each topic will be the notes put forth throughout the meeting that refer to the topic, regardless of where in the meeting they were shared.
Values of a Guide (and Service) Dog:
• Trained to meet ADI or IGDF standards
• Independence
o Dog is a ‘low tech prosthetic’
• Committee is working with BVAA to share the values of having a guide/service dog
CVGSDHBVA Guide Dog Users Group:
• Currently a website at Webmaster of CVGSDH and BVA working to blend both websites; accessible also from BVA website under Guide Dog Users Group.
• Mission
• Purpose
Education, Advocacy, and Support:
• Annie already has several workshops built, including an initial one called “Service Dog Workshop” which is an introduction to guide and service dogs.
o Since the BVA is looking for continuing education webinars on zoom, it was suggested that we look into having it come up on the zoom platform sooner, rather than later. Consensus of group was favorable.
• Resource of information to Veterans and their families about guide/service dogs.
o Schools
 Offerings and selection
 Application to
 Veteran advocate – all phases and topics
o VA involvement
 Dog of Record
• Must be ADI/IGDF trained
• PTSD Dogs must have two people trained and with the dog at all working times. Some VAs (or schools?) are requiring that PTSD Dogs and handlers be retrained annually.
• Proper VA process and paperwork through Primary Care or VIST
 Service Dog Champions – Need training, etc.
 Reimbursement for Veteran Training expenses
 Dogs on VA Property (Public Law 112-154) and enforcement. Spouses with guide or service dogs may or may not need proof of dog training. Case of ADA vs. 508. VA Law regarding guide/service dogs is 38 CFR 17.148.
 VIST (controlled by local VA) does not have the same rules as BRC (nationally controlled).
 How can we get local VAs and national (VA Central) on the same page? Or can we?
• Enforcement – Remember that Education must come first.
o Law Enforcement – Including VA
o County/State/Federal Health Departments and Food Service people
o Don’t forget first responders
• Self-Advocate
o Know how to report problems/grievances – start locally (and keep records); as of 2011, may go to DOJ if local/state doesn’t work.
o In VAs, the VA Police are the go-tos. If that doesn’t work, try the Patient Advocate.
o Knowing the laws helps you help others – and yourself.
o We must advocate for ourselves! Remember – we are an advocacy organization.
Multipurpose Dogs:
• Reasons for need/use
• Live healthy
• University of Michigan has compiled a table of basic guide/service dog laws from every state. This is on their website.
• Important to know the dog laws in the state where you live and in states where you travel. Go to specific state laws to expand your knowledge from the U of M website.
• Assistance Dogs International used to have a handbook with all of the state laws. Too many changes to keep up with. ADI now focuses more on Training Standards for guide and service dogs and Certification of Trainers.
• Law Enforcement in all venues is minimal, at best. Most don’t know – or seem to care about – dog laws or the blind or disabled.
o An education/awareness idea: When you have a good working knowledge about the laws, put them together and ask to meet with your local law enforcement or other community entity for an education session.
• Need to re-establish connections with VA Central. Several people are working on this. VA Access Laws differ from Public Access.
• Seem to be problems with certification process of dogs of record in different VAs. Some short-cutting through prosthetics without proper paperwork (and training).
Other Support Resources:
• Other Veterans Service Organizations
• Other websites (share when you know them).
(Y)our Responsibilities:
• Learn and know the laws, etc.
• Do what you can in your own communities
• White Cane Day
• VA Education Table
• Spokane VAMC  Walla Walla Veterans need BROS. Rae Hail is working with local VIST and VA Central – and support from BVA National
Very productive meeting. Lots of ideas and agenda topics to use from here.
Next meeting:
The third Tuesday (of each month). Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 2:00 pm ET, 1:00 pm CT, 12:00 noon MT, and 11:00 am PT.
Meeting was adjourned at 12:40 pm PT.

Respectfully submitted,
Patricia Hail, BVAA, BVA Committee Member

13 October 2020

2020/10/13 – Committee Meeting – BVA
W. Rae Hail (Board Committee Chair. and Co-Funder) opened the regular monthly meeting of the Blinded Veterans Dog Handlers Committee at: 11:09 am PT (2:00 pm ET)
Committee Members Present: Quorum Met
Rae Hail, BVA Chair, DD4, GD Handler Paul Mimms, BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler Wade Davis, BVA BRC Chair, GD Handler Annie Chiappetta, BVAA, GD Handler Jerry Hogan, BVA, GD Handler Patti Hail, BVAA Tracy Ferro, Biloxi BRC Staff Verna Richmond, BVA (First Meeting) Irena Howard, BVA GD Handler
Minutes of the previous meeting were sent to committee members to read and make comments. Rae asked Paul Mimms to review last week’s special meeting:
Paul updated what we’re aiming to see if they have a proclamation for a Template for Champion.
A discussion was made to change from a Special Interest group to a Committee Board of Director, establishing a core group.
It was suggested, as we pick new members and representation with VA, we need to send a memo to let them know what our group has done, what we need to do, and our goals. Veterans need to know what is available for them, should they decide to receive a Guide Dog. There is no existing training. Collaboration with Chief of Prosthetic to advocate Service Dog, Guide Dog with a resolution to submit VA and develop a council (PVA/DVA). There is no BVA in handler of Guide Dog and
– 1 –

17 November 2020

Paul Mimms (BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler Opened the regular monthly meeting of the Blinded Veteran Dog Handlers Committee at: 1:02 pm PST
Committee Members Present: Quorum M
Rae Hail, BVA Chair, DD4, GD Handle
Paul Mims, BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler
Wade Davis, BVA BRC Chair, GD Handler
Annie Chiappetta, BVAA, GD Handler
Jerry Hogan, BVA GD Handler
Patti Hail, BVAA
Tracy Ferro, Biloxi BRC Staff
Verna Richmond, BVA
Ed Raes
Irena Howard, BVA GD Handler
Paul Mimms commented on Tracy Ferro, a volunteer at the Biloxi BRC Staff at the VA Medical Center is one of the 2 facilities that have CATS and DOGS Program. They have computer access training, with a trainer and guide dog. It’s basically the same training as you would have in guide dog school, but in a BRC facility.
Paul introduced Beth who came to the BRC two years ago, from working with the homeless veterans in Mississippi. Within a year, they were told that the grant supporting the program was redistributed. Working there, she met many people and connections and now is working with BRC, a great opportunity and happy that so many veterans are appreciative of all the help they are receiving.
Discussion on the goals or plans of this committee:
• to provide education, advocacy, information and support to service/guide dog handlers.
• we can also learn from veterans who use service dogs. We need to support our veterans “brothers with harness”.
• as a committee, we were not getting the support from Boards of Directors, and Paul Mimms made a decision to talk with several people in the national offices on becoming a Special Interest Group.
• There are 2 groups of Special Interest Group –Women Veterans group, and Guide Dog User group, and trying to move that status to a committee.
Rae Hail is a member of the Board of Directors for District 4, appointed Chair of the Blind Veterans Dog Handlers Committee explained the dynamics of getting more support.
• With the support of the National President and our directors, it gets us more in line where we can have a voice with the VA
• Paul Mimms is our voice for the committee and goals are in our website. We are still developing the mechanics.
We have the Blinded Veterans Day March 28th., a month-long program to coincide with International Guide Dog Federation Day. Donna has offered the opportunity to develop some scholarship or money to use for scholarship to work with our veterans. Our format for our meetings is to stay on track with our projects, and have open forum for questions or grievances.
We also have concerns for those who use guide dogs.
• one is the lack of consistency within the VA on policies. The difference between “pet” and “guide/service dogs”.
• Wade’s knowledge and working with BRC will get
input from BRC on what would be needed on a template.
• A template that would help and assist the BRC staff and work as a one unit for VA to use.
o Wade has agreed to work with us on a template,
o Annie on scholarships.
o We need to get our committee to be noticed and we should be presenting our ideas, work and goals.
o Rae gives the reports and submits our minutes, that gives them a heads up of what we do.
o Paul Mimms is our spokes person to represent the BVA to VA and Don Overton will work with Paul Mimms.
• There are several different guide dog schools with different rules and might not be sensitive to veterans.
o An issue could be that a veteran is not comfortable discussing a grievance with the trainer for fear that if you say something, you might not be getting your dog.
o How can we help a veteran with advocacy and to communicate with the school? We would like to provide the veteran a voice that we could help express their concerns to the school.
✓ Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of these programs and getting our families orientations. Letting families realize not to turn your guide dog into a pet.
✓ Paul mentioned the schools with that program is American Vet Dogs or Guide Dog Foundation in New York.
✓ Annie was on a conference with VIVA and spoked with Stephanie in the program and stated that they have scheduled preliminary funding for 2 programs in 2 states. Still in the works. Annie is working on getting the new VIVA president to join one of our meetings.
✓ Annie received and reviewed the outline sent by Patti and Ray re: outline of an application form for a veteran applying for a guide dog and trainer in training. It’s a great start.
✓ Tracy – We have done family training and have the authorization, but have not done CATS and DOGS and family at one time. He will check if there is a possibility.
✓ Beth doesn’t see a problem either, they have used Fisher house for families to stay. They will also pay a certain amount for a hotel.
✓ Patti asked what kind of an agreement is there with the program and Paul mentioned he didn’t know how far the American Vet Dog, BVA or BRC are willing to go with the program. He explained when the VA was centralized primary management of the BRC was over Blind Rehab Services. When they decentralized, the primary responsibilities and supervision of BRC fell to the original Parent VA Medical center. They are trying to service Blind Service Deliveries under Medical Service Deliveries. It doesn’t seem to cross over.
✓ Patti also asked if there is some kind of an outline for the dogs’ part of the program. Tracy explained the process on how a guide dog gets his handler and what is expected of the veteran. Training with BRC is beneficial and needed to complete the process. An honest and upfront assessment of the veteran is crucial.
✓ Job description for Service Dog Champions is necessary and will be accomplished.
Meeting adjourned by Paul Mimms.
Next scheduled meeting, December 15, 2020
Respectfully submitted by Irena Howard.

19 January 2021


JANUARY 19, 2021 – Minutes

Paul Mimms (BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler
Opened the regular monthly meeting of the Blinded Veteran Dog

Handlers Committee at: 11:00 am PST


Committee Members Present:
Rae Hail – BVA Chair, DD4, GD Handler
Paul Mimms – BVA Co-chair, Founder, Moderator GD Handler
Annie Chiappetta – BVAA, GD Handler
Don Overton – Executive Director, Gov Relations, Legislative Committee
Patti Hail – BVAA
Ray Tober – VCS, Executive Director
Scott Quinlan – GD Handler
Wade Davis – Pres. GHRGTX
Irena Howard – GD Handler

Wade Davis – produced a recommendation guideline for the BRC guide dog program when in the class. A document of information was compiled with other BRC schools. It gives the VA guidelines explaining what is expected of us. The veteran is responsible for his dog, and for what is expected of his dog, not the BRC. A standardized policy that should come from BRC. Wade to send information to Don Overton and to the group (CVGSDH)
Ray Tober – added that in 2020 he initiated variety of education programs base on survey tool with Champion in the field. It was based on policies interpretation and changes to the policies. Service animals’ vs emotional support animals and non-service animals on site.

We need to purse these issues:
• Write a job description for program manager to provide overall essential office policies and procedures, consultation and clarifications on animals on VA properties.
• VHA central office point of contact whose primary role help write policies, act as a national consultant on policies involving service animals or animals on VA property.
• Secure feedback with organization like BVDHC on some of the challenges that we are having and collaborate with different offices in VHA that have some part in managing or engaging in animals/dogs.
• Policies now should be revised to bring them out to standards and contemporary issues that we have experienced in the past 2 yrs.
• What will take care of these issues, is to have a central point of contact, it can include prosthetics, or have one person to represent our central office policies, addressing issues on animals on VA properties.
• We need to get a Champion to represent the field with consistency and how to refine the policy. Make it more transparent, be accountable and making it easier for veterans to understand.
• To rewrite the policy, getting it up to date that involves all the active players and re-address these issues. We need a hard charge to force these issues, to get a policy, to get a person to represent a central office policy on animals. The person will have all the marketing materials, educations updates, drafts, ideas, national survey, and talks with Champions. As he is retiring, he will share all the information he has, and is on board
on helping us in any way.
We need to connect with Dr. Stone and the director in charge of Operations of VHA. We need to centralize and make this a national policy, with security and police included. Issues are not only in VHA, but in all the VA.

Ray Tober was close to finishing the process, but with Covid-19 prevented completing the project.
Paul Mimms – mentioned that we did address a policy for service animals in previous years, to no avail.
Don Overton – Will work with Dr. Stone and Ray Tober. He will work with legislature priorities and the government relations team to elevate these policies, especially now with the new “carrier act”. We need this completed this year withing the VA.
Rae Hail – We need to get Champion to be educated, trained and be in agreement, with a policy region wide and not for one specific area.
Ray Tober – Many turnover Champion job. Champion is responsible and should be able to liaison with the central office on issues or liaison with problems in the field directly or with the VA police. With many opinions’ and questions, it caused confusions – what to do with people who have service dog or emotional support dogs on VA properties or VA clinics.
To eliminate problems Ray Tober was recreating an introduction 101 role of the Champion, a job description, on how to handle their job, and a role for the clinic on who should control a situation happening now. Issues should not be handled by a GS5 or GS6, but a figure of authoriy This is an educations issues on all levels.
Part of the re-drafting and revisions, were to get a centralized share point reporting system, managed by the VA police on reporting all the incidents involving all the animals in the field. As of now, we don’t have a centralized system.
In a survey, 90% of incidents, reported were by the VA police, and none from Champion.
In a Dec. meeting, with the VA, VHA that handled animals, to include the general counsel, and they agreed on a concept and principle to go forward proposing policy changes which included education and reporting mechanism. Now, as the committee, we need to regroup, figures out, evaluate and go forward.
Paul Mimms – he co-authored a resolution from BVA that was submitted to VA, to create an advisory committee that would be composed of those who have vested interest in issues related to dogs. A counsel was formed, but we were not included. As guide dog handles, we depend on our dogs to guide us to safety and more. We have a higher standard of training and handling our guide dogs. We are also more liable for damages from our dogs.
At some point, we want to establish ourselves to be considered knowledgeable enough on this subject matter “experts” and be
part of the input process. We tried on several occasions, and today’s meeting, is giving us the first opportunity to have an invitation. We Thank You.

Paul Mimms and Don Overton – will work together in reviewing all the information received from Ray Tober. Don will combine all the information into a formal strategy with government relations for high level legislation priorities. There is enough media attention, with the airlines service/emotional support dogs, that this will get talking points with Dr. Stone. Information will go across to all points of contact. Paul Mimms, Don Overton and Ray Tober will steer a small team, making sure all information is correct, complete and ready to bring out to Dr. Stone. This will go across the VA and all points of contact – our form of advocacy.
Rae Hail – with the guideline information given by Wade Davis,
we need to get the information out to BRC and the VA system.
Guide Dogs of the Dessert will now let us know when a veteran will be attending for training, and giving them any information we have to the veteran.
Scot Quinlan – contact with GDB and can help, he will also have a person for our newsletter.
Ann Chiappetta – contacts with Guiding Eye of the Blind

Paul Mimms – contact with Guide dog Foundation
Wade Davis – contact with Guide Dogs of America
Don Overton – He has an initial authorization for his son to help and take over the Webmaster. He will be reporting to Stewart since he is a minor. His son has dual accreditation from IBM program, earning his software engineering college degree with his high school diploma. He is sponsored by IBM. A central e-mail will be set up for him for anything that will come from this committee. He will check the website daily with any updates and information.
Patti Hail – would like the committee to submit 2 or 3 ideas or suggestions with training needs to the following questions:
• What we like to see the Champion be doing?
• What resources to they need?
• Who do you think should experience training?
Request also will be put on the e-mail list. All your ideas to be submitted as soon as possible, so that it all could be submitted to Paull Mimms and Don Overton. She will compile, a rough draft of all the information for them.
Patti also started a proposed training guideline to

• How does a veteran apply for a guide/service dog?
• Emotions support animal?

All these information Champion should have the knowledge of all that is available to veterans.
Ann Chiappetta has all this information in a pyramid form on a
guide dog and down. She will send the information to Patti.

Rae Hail – We’re getting the BRC and Champion proposal to the field, and these will be our 2 major accomplishments from our committee. This will start getting the word out and conversations with the training facilities. Rae will get a contact list.
Meeting minutes were discussed. Irena will send the minutes to the group (CVGSDH), and the staff is responsible to read them, approve/or not and bring that to the next meeting. She will also send out an agenda form (which can be revised or changed) to meet the needs of the group. Agenda attached.
Task – We need to get ready for March. We need ideas to put on our website to make March more interesting.
March 28 – April 28 we’re doing Guide Dog recognition month. It will be centered by our BVA website and a copy of with a proclamation to give to your local mayor.
• March 28 is Blinded Veteran’s Day
• April 28 is International Guide Dog Federation Day
We’ll be able to use that time frame to share stories, information and communicate with out training schools and all veterans.
It was asked of the committee if they would be interested in having an online auction to raise money for scholarships. This will be included in our agenda for discussion February 16 th meeting.
Our website also includes information you need to know when traveling to get you guide dog and forms for you to complete.
Getting dog of record form, travel vouchers, and if an aide is needing to travel with you.
Patti is involved with the auxiliary for the convention in August and he will be working with the District Directors on the agenda format.
Ann will set up an informal casual “Facebook” as an auxiliary to promote guide dogs. Scott and Wade volunteer to help.

Wade suggested if we could have Sharon Giovinazzo, CEO/Pres of World Services for the Blind on the committee.

Meeting Adjourn: January 16, 2021 at 12:30 pm Standard Time.

Respectfully submitted by Irena Howard

March 16, 2021


March 16, 2021 – Minutes

Paul Mimms (BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler
Opened the regular monthly meeting of the Blinded Veteran Dog

Handlers Committee at: 11:10 am PST

Minutes of February 16, 2021 have been approved as written.


Committee Members Present:
Rae Hail – BVA Chair, DD4, GD Handler
Paul Mimms – BVA Co-chair, Founder, Moderator GD Handler
Ann Chiappetta – BVAA-NY,GH
Patti Hail – BVAA
Vernon Richmond
Darrel Goldsmith – DD5
Wade Davis


Patti Hail – The “Champions’’ is in name only. We need to educate the VA on what the main purpose of “Champions” is with directions, and support. Also, to provide them an outline back-up
support from BVA and ADA.

VA needs to implement a policy for Champions. We have samples for them to use as reference, directives and laws. We need to give the VA, for considerations, guidelines with directives, so that they can implement a policy for “Champions”. With a good set of guidance, from our committee, they will be able to clearly see the problems.


POLICING – All report of unruly dogs, should go up the chain of command and to National. The VA police needs to be accountable for filing report and sending them to the appropriate
In the past, Paul Mimms mentioned that he did propose a written resolution policy for review, from Wichita office, and nothing happened. He will get the file/policy and forwarded it to Patti Hail. She will incorporate some of the information in our proposals.
Anni suggested that we need to know our rights, by educating the veteran and the handler, when Champion’s policy is approved. Some information on our website will need to be tweaked, when new updated information has been approved.
In the proposal, there should be a definition between program dogs, service dogs and guide dogs. Attendees for training – VIST, BROS, VISOR, Mental Health Mgr., Cafeteria Mgr., Patient Advocates, identified Personnel and Volunteers should be included in the training.
What we do as a committee, is to get this proposal to Don Overton and the Board, so that the organization carries out our mission forward. We will, also be able to make recommendations,
suggestions, and review the final proposal. They will keep us informed with updates with any revisions they make.
On another topic, Paul had some concerns and called Don Overton and Joe McNeil and is waiting for a response.

  1. How can employees better interact with visually
    impaired/blinded veteran patient.
  2. When a blinded veteran patient goes to an appt. with
    spouse/partner/or caregiver, with Covid-19 rules,
    they need to be 6ft. could there be some allowance

VA has removed the orientation to “blindness as a patient” from their mandated training. BRC wants to include this orientation, only the Central Office can mandate this training.
Our Main job and goal, is defining Service Dog Champions- what is expected, and the behavior of a service dog.


Our next meeting is schedules on: April 13, 2021
March 16th , 2021 meeting adjourned at: 12:10 pm
Respectfully submitted by: Irena Howard

April 21, 2021


April 21, 2021 – Minutes

Paul Mimms (BVA Co-Chair, Founder, Moderator, GD Handler
Opened the regular monthly meeting of the Blinded Veteran Dog

Handlers Committee at: 11:40 am PST.


Committee Members Present:

Paul Mimms – BVA Co-chair, Founder, Moderator GD Handler
Don Overton – Executive Director, Gov Relations, Legislative Committee
Scott Quinlan – GD Handler
Tracy Ferro – Biloxi BRC Staff LA/MSRG
Eileen Vasquez
Irena Howard – GD Handler
Absent: Rae Hail, Patti Hail, Ann Chiappetta


Committee reviewed draft of VA Champions proposal by Patti Hail
and Ann Chiappetta.

  • A great proposal with a good deal of information, but too
    extensive for VA to implement. This will also add additional
    duties for a VA staff. We may consider working with VA staff,
    giving them basic information and migrating this into a TMS
    web base training module for Champions
  • All this information will be the internal layout outline for us to
    implement the proposal. Don Overton will submit this information and talking point to Ray Tober, who is very familiar
    and worked on this project, to move forward and will be
    presented to the Secretary level. This will be an internal blue
    print for us to present to the Secretary level to ensure the VA
    is moving in the right direction.

Paul Mimms mentioned that the VA may not consider us as the “subject matter expert” but we are. We are guide dog users/handlers. We need to find a way to take our “subject matter expertise” and transfer this information to VA by Ray
Don Overton is working on 2 pieces of legislations and 2 pieces both in the House and with Companions Bill in the Senate. At this time, one of the House versions has 312 co-sponsors and the House has placed it on the consent calendar.
Don mentioned, that the VA did a study, to create a “service dog” for veterans with PTSD. The group’s objective was to validate the service dog for PTSD. There is a bond between a human and animal, and is therapeutical. But, putting the dog on a leash and on to society, is not a good idea. No matter how well behaved, the dog could get aggressive. With a dog
handler, once you get involved in a negative environment with another dog, the handler becomes self-isolating and starts
avoiding public settings and travels, and the dog gets “dog reactive”. Anxiety gets transferred from leash to harness, and in time the dog becomes anxious.
Don Overton will go public with the advocacy group that is driving the legislation. Don had a telephone conversation with the military coalition. Don stated that he will not endorse and he will be the primary opponent.

The discussion of the study, validating these dogs as “service dogs” clearly states that the human and animal is very therapeutic, but not validating these dogs for PTSD.
The study was handpicked, sterile and controlled.
There are many challenges and problems that the legislation will need to review and address all of these issues with the compliance acts.
Don is also working with trainers, breeders and Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation to look at the proposed training. Also, to identify some of the concern that we already know in the guide dog community that anxiety is a concern for service/guide dogs. Question is also how can the legislative operate a pilot program, with $25,000 per dog going to an unsubstantiated program and never provide the funding to the guide dog community.
Don will also be talking with the Senate of Veterans Affairs committee chairman and staff, that we will need to take control of the legislation and incorporate, that the legislation is applicable for Guide Dog Schools. Which will mean, that Guide Dog Schools will qualify for the $25,000 grant fund, and that we will be supportive of “service dog” dog aspect, as soon as they can approve accreditation under the ADA, Assistance Dog International Act and Service Dog Public Access.

Paul Mimms – we need help from the administration to provide rules and regulations for service/guide dogs. Dog handlers accept standards and create standards for the behavior of their dogs, to be acceptable in all situations. Other dogs, who have not been trained and are “just there”, should not have the same privileges as trained and accredited service/guide dogs.


Tracy Ferro – They will re-opened for business next month, with no restrictions, except only automobile travel. If you are not vaccinated, you will not be able to go to town, and no going home on weekends.


Scott Quinlan – Long Beach has been opened for approx. 4 months. Some restrictions apply.
Kudos for Don Overton for doing a great job, working diligently to get support and getting us back on the game.
For the Convention it will be on ZOOM and keeping it simple, more information TBD.
Don is also working shifting to the BVA platform. He will start building it out and it will be easier to use for all with consistency. Paul will talk to Rae.
Also, look forward to a policy “ACTION” to oppose the PAWS ACT that will be going out. It will come from the Committee Chairs., with messuages from Paul Mimms and Rae Hail. It will be simple to use with one click of the button, putting in your name, address, and the system will automatically generate the letter to your Congress and Senate persons. There will be a big campaign opposing the PAWS ACT that will be coming soon.


Upcoming – A renewable “auto grant” will start up end of this week. This is to encourage our representative to support the “auto grant” to renew the VA Auto Grant every 10 years.


GOALS – In a local and/or regional way, we need to spread the word and develop support for your Guide and Service handles.


Our next meeting is schedules on: May 18, 2021
April 18, 2021 meeting adjourned at: 12:45 PST

Respectfully submitted by: Irena Howard


Considerations for selecting a school/training facility

 Accredited as per 38 CFR 17.148.
 Is there a qualified (Master’s Degree) O&M Instructor?
 Are there veterans on staff?
 Are there both men and women on the training staff?
 What kind of training is offered”?
o In school – How long
o At home
o A “flex” program that has some of both – variable with program
 Is the training for a basic-trained guide or service dog or customized to the individual?
 What kind of follow-up is there?
 What are the school requirements of the veteran?
 Is travel provided by the school? Or VA – Must pre-apply if not school.
 Are there accommodations?
o Senior accommodations – i.e. wake-up, walking distance, diet, flex program.
o Multiple needs of veterans
o Safety of environment
 Does the school have a Family Orientation Program?
 How does the school address negative comments or abusive actions – student to student, staff to student, etc.
o Process for conflict resolution,
o Do they offer a neutral mediator when conflict arises?
 Does the school recognize Patriotic Days/Holidays – such as Veterans Day Memorial Day, Branch Service Days?
These are just considerations for each individual. You may not have any desire to use them, or you may have others. Remember that the schools are evaluated entirely by their accreditation authority (such as ADI or IGDF). We like all of the schools and will only share what the schools ask us to. If you have questions, the best place for answers are the schools, themselves. We simply want to help the veteran have the best match for potentially the greatest success of the team – as does everyone.

Travel Expenses for Training with a Guide/Service Dog

Some of the ADI/IGDF accredited schools take care of a student/handler’s travel expenses. Others have smaller budgets and are unable to do so.
If you are planning to go to an accredited school to get a guide or service dog and the school is not paying for your travel, you may have another option – if you do it early enough and before you go to training at the school.
The VA has a Type 1 Travel general health option (See also 38 CFR 70) that may be able to help you out. You can find out more about it at:

VA Form 10-3542 for Reimbursement of Travel Expenses, is the form to use if you are traveling to get a guide/service dog. Be sure to get the form off of the website so you have the newest form. The VA will not accept ‘old’ forms. Follow the instructions with the form. Usually you will need pre-approval in order to be reimbursed. Be sure to check with “Travel” at your local VA health facility. Under certain conditions, your caregiver may also be reimbursed. You have a 30 day window for reimbursement.

How to Get a Guide/Service Dog

How to Get a Guide/Service Dog – aka Dog of Record
First: You must have a legal/medical necessity for having a guide or service dog and it must be part of your treatment program.
Secondly: This need must be written into your medical file and approved by your Primary Care Physician.
Next: You will need to find an IGDF (International Guide Dog Federation) or ADI (Assistance Dogs International) Accredited training facility.
This is not an easy task. There are a number of fully accredited guide and service dog schools/facilities around the country. The key is to find the one (or more) that fits your needs best.
Some of the first items to think about may include:
 Geographic Location
 Costs – Most do not charge for the dogs, but some ask that you be willing to contribute money for harnesses, the school, or various other needs or items.
 Travel – Does the school provide for your travel, or do you need to use other resources? See Travel Expenses for Training with a Guide/Service Dog in this website.
 Type of Dog – Labs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds and some crosses of these breeds are the most popular because there is a higher percentage of successful training with these dogs. Poodles, Labradoodles, and a few other breeds and crosses may be used by schools for veterans who (themselves or family members) may have a severe allergy.
 Type of program – At the school, at your home, or flexible programs that do some of each.
 Length of program – 2, 3, or 4 weeks (usually first-time students will need longer programs because there is a lot to learn). At your home programs and flex programs are sometimes have less length of time because they are usually one-to-one-to-one programs (trainer – dog – student).
Finally: Once you have narrowed your options, go to Considerations for Selecting a School/Training Facility on this website, and review that checklist; it will give you more to think about. Get an application from the training facility(ies) and completely fill it out and follow the directions they give you. Be prepared, some are lengthy.
After Successful Completion of Training: Go to your Primary Care Physician or VIST Coordinator and ask about VA Form 10-2641, with your Graduation Certificate and Training ID card. The VIST or PC will complete the form and take it and your certificate and card for verification. Following successful verification, your Dog of Record will be issued an insurance card with the VA/US Service Dog Program. (See 38CFR Section 17.148.)
As a Dog of Record with the VA, you now have access to your dog’s health care being paid for (at least in part) through the VA by contracted veterinary insurance services.

You have learned when and where your dog is allowed on VA property as well as public access. You know how to care for and handle you dog, using best practices for handling and etiquette so that you are able to continue your dog’s training and be able to correctly assess and handle the difficulties that will arise.
Stay in contact with your training facility if you have any questions about what your dog is doing, etc. Do not allow your dog to become untrained or be a pet. Remember that your dog is “on duty” 24/7. Love and play with your dog when it is appropriate; and remember to take every “play” time as an opportunity for further training.
Bonding with your dog may take several months because most dogs have been “passed around” frequently since birth. Once the dog is ‘bonded’ to you, the question as to ‘how long does take for the dog to be bonded to me?’ will never have to be asked again (for that dog) – you will know.
Your independence will grow the better the dog has taken to its training, the more quality time you spend together – working and play-training, etc., and through the totality of the bonding process. Enjoy your dog – and relish your increased independence.

Family Orientation Program

What should we expect?

A Family Orientation Program is for the veteran’s significant other, a close family member, or a caregiver. It is an orientation – and hopefully a follow-up walk-behind that will tell the “family”

  • How a well-trained guide/service dog team should act,
  • How the family can be a part of the dog’s life (and vice versa)
  • How NOT to break the dog’s training
  • What family members need to do when the dog is working; when at home
  • Remember that these dogs are working 24/7. The veteran has total say about when the dog can interact with family members.
  • Do not allow abuse of any kind toward the animal. If this happens, call the authorities and call the school.
  • When family needs to be available to assist. Different for individuals. Independence and safety are key.


Why Do We Need it?

A Guide or Service dog can add a large measure of Independence and Safety to the veteran’s life. Family should be respectful and allow the veteran the greatest measure of independence possible. Remember that increased independence of the veteran can mean more independence for the family caregiver, too.

The process of bonding between the dog and the veteran frequently takes several months – or more. It is important to encourage that bonding to be complete, no matter how long it takes. For that reason, the marriage/relationship you may have had with the veteran now becomes a threesome – with the dog becoming the extension of the veteran. You may not be able to hold hands while walking down the street; you will likely have to wait for them to get ready to go somewhere; walk behind or in front (takes a lot of getting used to, knowing when to be where). Take a step back and let the veteran tell you what he does or does not need from you. DO NOT COMPETE to do things for the dog or the veteran.

The Guide/Service Dog is NOT a pet – do not break training. Even play is an opportunity for training – and needs to be directed by the veteran handler.

In some cases, a family member/caregiver is required to be trained with the veteran because of a medical need or to have control of the dog while the veteran is in a sterile environment (like some area of medical facilities) and/or having some kind of medical procedure or issue. If there is a cognitive issue, such as Alzheimer’s or autism, the family member must be the dog’s trained handler.

A veteran may have a mobility support dog that has also been trained to have a calming effect if there is a mental health need but these are rare. This veteran will also have a second person trained with the dog and the veteran must remain in counseling for the duration. Often this situation requires annual training. And is for the safety of everyone.


It is impossible to list all of the reasons for orientation or the whys. But if some of the basics are given in an orientation and the veteran can communicate the dog’s and team’s needs, most things can be worked out. If assistance is needed, try calling the school and talk to their counselor – that counselor should be able to give both the veteran and the caregiver some ideas on how to proceed. Listen and do.

There are many ways an orientation may be given. Personally, I like being with the trainer and my veteran on site whether that is at the school or at home because we can communicate and I learn a lot. Other possible orientation venues may include:

An annotated video could be one method to show basic training methods in home and community situations. This could be viewed on line, at school, or at home. I believe this should be followed by a personal video (or walk behind with the trainer) of the specific veteran and dog – annotated so the family can see how the veteran handles the dog and the trainer gives positive comments.

A Zoom Meeting (or face-time with a smart phone) could be another way to ‘show and tell’ an orientation and/or walk-behind.

However it is done, the family member needs to know what to expect and what to do. The Family Orientation can solidify a good training – and make it better by following good practices. We have seen too many dogs that were ruined because a family member “took over” or the veteran did not use the dog as intended. Communication between the veteran and the training facility, or the family member to the school, and follow-up by the school can correct the actions not going well, or remove the dog from a dangerous situation.

We all want positive matches that continue to make greater improvements so that the dog, the veteran, and the family can have a wonderful and happy forever home. A good family orientation can help make this happen.


 General Resources

 Guide and Service Dog Protections Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Air Travel with Assistance Dogs

Department of Veteran Affairs Specific Resources

  • VHA Directive 1188 establishes the regulations and authority for Service and Guide Dogs to access VA properties (tagged pdf)
  • PUBLIC LAW 112.154 Sec.109 Forces the Department of Veterans Affairs to Allow Service and Guide Dogs into All VA Facilities
  • VHA 2641 VA Form Required by VA Prosthetics Through the PCM for Enrollment Into the VA’s Service Dog Insurance Program (tagged pdf)

The Personal Side

Local Protection and advocacy. agency

As some of you know, each state has a federally-funded “Protection and
Advocacy Agency (“P&A” which will accept complaints about disability
discrimination as well as complaints about abuse and neglect of vulnerable
adults and which has the power to file a lawsuit against such actors and
actions.  To find your state’s P&A, you can go to
cacy-systems, go to the bottom of the page and click on the Find your P&E
Agency link.

Table of state laws for assistance dogs



News Update by Guide Dog Users Inc.

Press Release: TSA continues piloting self-service checkpoint technology
Date: September 1, 2020 at 11:16:52 AM CDT
TSA continues piloting “self-service” checkpoint technology
Effort promotes social distancing, reduces contact between officers and passengers
WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is piloting a new touchless “self-service” technology that matches a traveler’s live photo with the photo on their ID. The initiative automatically authenticates a traveler’s ID, matches the live photo with the image on their ID, and confirms their flight information in near real time.

“In light of COVID-19, advanced health and safety precautions have become a top priority and part of the new normal for TSA,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “As a result, we are exploring rapid testing and deployment of this touchless, self-service technology. At the conclusion of the pilot, we expect to be able to determine how positioning the new technology will allow passengers to use it themselves thereby providing a safer checkpoint experience, while adding significant security benefits.”

The current pilot at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) follows a previous 30-day test of the credential authentication technology with a camera in September 2019 at McCarran International Airport with volunteer TSA PreCheck™ passengers. Following that pilot, TSA refined the technology in partnership with the vendor and industry experts. The pilot at DCA also includes volunteer TSA PreCheck travelers, who generally have the shortest wait times and the least amount of physical contact while at a TSA checkpoint.

Travelers at DCA are now able to voluntarily participate in the pilot. Passengers will be able to approach the device and insert their own ID into the scanner for authentication, rather than physically handing it to a TSA officer, thus promoting social distancing and reducing physical contact. The device will also verify the identity of passengers by taking a photo of the traveler and comparing it with the image on their ID. The device will display results for face matching, ID authentication, and flight information to the TSA officer, who will be behind an acrylic shield to further minimize contact between the officer and passengers.

The credential authentication technology units authenticate several thousand types of IDs including:
U.S. driver’s licenses and photo IDs issued by state motor vehicle departments
U.S. passports/Permanent resident cards or visas
U.S. military common access cards/Retired and Uniformed service military ID cards
Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler ID cards

Photographs of travelers taken as part of the program are not saved, as there is no capacity to do so. The photographs are only used for identity verification to confirm that the photo matches the image on the traveler’s ID and ensure the passenger is the true bearer of an authentic ID. Signs near the checkpoint will provide notice to passengers on how to participate in the pilot, in addition to providing instructions on how to decline having their photo taken, although passenger IDs will still have to be scanned through the device for identity verification. Participating travelers may complete a brief survey via a QR code regarding their experience and satisfaction with the self-service system and its usability.

For broadcast content, please see TSA courtesy B-roll of the new machines in use at DCA.


DOT Final Service Dog Rule

DOT has released the final service animal rule.

A quick review shows that they listened to the airlines:

The final rule:

Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;
No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;
Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;
Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;
Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;
Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process;
Allows airlines to require a person with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel;
Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals;
Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft;
Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft;
Continues to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; and
Continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.

DOT Service Animal Relief Attestation Form

DOT Service Animal Relief Attestation Form (PDF)

DOT Service Animal Health Training Behavior Form

DOT Service Animal Health Training Behavior Form (PDF)

BRC Guide / Service Dog Guidelines

BRC Guide / Service Dog Guidelines
Download Guidelines (DOC) (PDF)

UBER's Service Animal and Assistive Device Policy

UBER’s Service Animal and Assistive Device Policy (PDF) (DOC)