Victory for Service Dog Casanova in Discrimination Lawsuit
Former United States Navy Diver, David DeMario, called MacDonald Hoague & Bayless after he had been barred from the Veterans’ Affairs Puget Sound Health Care dental facilities because of his service dog, “Casanova.” Mr. DeMario is the survivor of three strokes which have left him with reduced use of his right arm and leg. In 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs provided David with his first certified, trained service dog to assist him with his daily functions and to alert him to the early signs of a stroke. David’s current dog, Casanova, is a Golden Labrador, paid for by the VA and similarly certified and trained to assist David. Casanova wears a vest clearly identifying him as a service dog and accompanies David everywhere. Yet the VA would not let Casanova accompany Mr. DeMario to his routine dental care appointments.
On June 7, 2023, Mr. DeMario, represented by Jeffrey Taren and Mika Rothman of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, sued the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking to overturn the VA Puget Sound’s policy as a violation of federal and Washington disability discrimination laws. The lawsuit noted that other VA facilities around the country allow veterans to bring their service dogs to routine teeth cleaning, examination and treatment appointments and that the VA Puget Sound’s policy violates guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
As the result of a federal court disability discrimination lawsuit, Casanova will now be able to accompany David to all VA Dental Treatment rooms or most all examinations, teeth cleaning and non-invasive procedures. The settlement requires the VA to change its policies for the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and to re-examine its policies nationwide and make similar changes where necessary.
“We are pleased that the VA recognized that its policies with regard to service animals, needed to be revised so that disabled veterans, such as David DeMario, wouldn’t be treated like second class citizens when they sought dental treatment”, said attorney Jeffrey Taren. “It’s too bad that it took a lawsuit to make them come to that realization.”