The ADA defines a service animal as:
… a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The rule states that other animals, whether wild or domestic, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are not service animals.
There are instances when a service animal may be restricted. In Pool v. Riverside Health Services, a federal court upheld the facilities’ restriction of the animal. The ADA authorizes places of public accommodation to impose restrictions if it is a safety requirement.
The “ADA contains no blanket policy mandating the places of public accommodation permitting service animals under all circumstances”. (Kincaid, 1966, p.16). With regard to a university/college, there may be possible restrictions of service animals in clinical practicums of nursing and health sciences programs, in food services programs, or in laboratories that can pose a safety risk. These exceptions would need to be considered individually to determine whether the dog poses a possible danger, and if other reasonable accommodations can be provided.
Overall, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the animal and of the team. While legal access rights are afforded to users of assistance animals, with that comes the responsibility of ensuring that the animal behaves and responds appropriately at all times in public and that the partner/handler, as a team, are to adhere to the same socially acceptable standards as any individual in the community.
Portions of this section are adapted or quoted verbatim from the Service Animal Policy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marcia Carlson, and the University of Colorado.
- Companion animal: In recent years, these animals have been prescribed as treatment for some disabilities for their calming influence, affections, stability or even a feeling of security. They are not trained and not afforded the legal protections of service animals. Extremely extenuating circumstances in the student’s documentation per Section 3 would be necessary to permit a companion animal on campus.
- A dog in training: A dog being trained; however, it has the same rights as a fully trained dog when accompanied by a trainer and identified as such.
- Partner/handler: A person with a service or therapy animal. A person with a disability is called a partner; a person without a disability is called a handler.
- Service Animal: A dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.
- Team: A person with a disability, or a handler, and his or her service animal. The two work as a cohesive team in accomplishing the tasks of everyday living.
- Therapy Animal: A therapy animal does not assist an individual with a disability in the activities of daily living, and historically they have not been protected by laws for service animals. The use of therapy animals for mental disorders, i.e., agoraphobia has assisted the individual to safely leave the house and participate in community and educational activities. Documentation needs to specifically address the need of a therapy animal.
Types of Service Dogs
Guide dog is a carefully trained dog that serves as a travel tool by persons who are blind or have severe visual impairment.
Hearing dog is a dog who has been trained to alert a person with significant hearing loss or who is deaf when a sound, e.g., know on the door, occurs.
Service dog is a dog that has been trained to assist a person who has a mobility or health impairment. Types of duties the dog may perform include carrying, fetching, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, steadying a person while walking, helping a person up after the person falls, etc. Service dogs are sometimes referred to as assistance dogs.
Sig dog is a dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog alerts the partner to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping). A person with autism may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.
Seizure response dog is a dog trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder; how the dog serves the person depends on the person’s needs. The dog may stand guard over the person during a seizure, or the dog may go for help. A few dogs have somehow learned to predict a seizure and warn the person in advance.
Service Animals and On Campus Housing
An exclusion of the “no animals” policy in the Residence Hall must be provided for animals who meet the ADA definition of a service animal or if the animal is considered a “reasonable accommodation” for an individual with a disability per HUD 24 CFR Part 5 (“Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities”):
- The student is certified as an individual with a disability through registration with Disability Services
- The animal is needed to assist with the disability, and
- The individual who requests the reasonable accommodation demonstrates that there is a relationship between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides.
For service and accommodation animals, the requirements below apply.
The handler of the service animal must show proof to the Disability Services Office that the animal has met the following regulations:
Licensing: The animal must meet the licensing requirements required by the state of Oregon. (For nonresidents, home state tags may be accepted.)
Health records: The animal must have a health statement, including vaccinations from a licensed veterinarian dated within the past year. Generally, legitimate assistance animals are well groomed and receive excellent veterinary care, including an annual checkup. A veterinarian’s statement within the past 12-15 months as to good health is necessary. Preventative measures should be taken at all times for flea and odor control. Consideration of others must be taken into account when providing maintenance and hygiene of assistance animals.
Minimum training standards: Verification that the animal meets those minimum training requirements as prescribed by Assistance Dogs International or any other service animal training organization have been met. In Arizona State University Case No. 08-96-2079-B, OCR rejected a claim because “the student provided no proof to the university or OCR that the dog had been individually trained as required by the ADA.”
Identification: The animal should wear some type of commonly recognized identification symbol.
- The animal must be on a leash at all times; never is it allowed to wander around off leash.
- The handler must be in full control of the animal at all times.
- The animal must be as unobtrusive as possible.
Exclusion for behavior: A service animal may be excluded from the campus when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Although the campus may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it will give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises (ADA Today, p.4).
Consequences for behavior: When an assistance animal is determined out of control as reported by students, staff, or administration, the infraction will be treated on an individual basis. If the animal poses a threat to the safety of other students, Public Safety will be part of the collaboration team to determine the outcome of the behavior. Consequences may include but not be limited to muzzling a barking animal, refresher training for both the animal and the partner, or exclusion from university facilities.
Public Etiquette by Animal
- The animal must not be allowed to sniff people, restaurant tables or the personal belongings of others.
- The animal must not initiate contact with someone without the handler’s direct permission.
- The animal must not display any behaviors or noises that are disruptive to others such as barking, whining, growling or rubbing against people while waiting in lines. This includes aggressive behaviors.
- The animal must avoid personal grooming in public settings such as excessive scratching or licking its genital areas.
- The animal must not block an aisle or passageway.
- The animal must never be more than 12 inches from the handler’s leg or side of the chair.
- The animal must be trained to not be attracted to food that may be sitting around.
Areas of Safety
As cited above, there are certain instances when it may be considered unsafe for animals in such places as medical facilities, laboratories, mechanical rooms or any other place where the safety of the animal or partner/handler may be threatened.
When it is determined unsafe for the team to be in one of these areas, reasonable accommodations will be provided to assure the student equal access to the activity.
In the event of an emergency, the Emergency Response Team that responds should be trained to recognize service animals and to be aware that the animal may be trying to communicate the need for help. The animal may become disoriented from the smell of smoke in a fire or laboratory emergency, from sirens or wind noise, or from shaking and moving ground. The partner and/or animal may be confused from the stressful situation. The ERT should be aware that the animal is trying to be protective and, in its confusion, is not to be considered harmful. The ERT should make every effort to keep the animal with its partner. However, the ERT’s first effort should be toward the partner; this may necessitate leaving the animal behind in certain emergency evacuation situations.
It is common for persons to have a disability that precipitates an allergic reaction to animals. Persons making as asthmatic/allergy/medical complaint are to be directed to make that complaint with the Disabilities Services Office. The person making the complaint must show medical documentation to support that complaint. Action will be taken to consider the needs of both persons and to resolve the problem as efficiently and expeditiously as possible. In the event this cannot be resolved, the institution will invoke first-person rights.
First Person Rights
If the person uses a service animal and is registered in a course or present in a college area, and another person arrives with serious allergies, you cannot remove the first person to accommodate the second person. (Disability Compliance for High Education (July 1996) Vol. 1, No. 12, p. 4 & 5).
A service animal is used by individuals with disabilities to facilitate access. What if a student with a service animal does not identify themselves with the Disability Services Office? Can you exclude that individual from the campus until they comply with these rules of documentation?
In the absence of case law, the following guidelines will be used until proven otherwise discriminatory:
- If a student is consistently seen on campus with an animal that is identified by a jacket or some other symbol that it is a service animal, that student will be encouraged to meet with the Disability Services Office. (On most campuses, that is usually the role of Public Safety officers who patrol the campus.)
- If there is any complaint regarding the animal and its behavior, the dean of students will contact the student and, in collaborations with the Disability Service Coordinator, inform the student of the policies regarding service animals.
- If the student fails to act in accordance with the above, then student conduct actions will be taken.