Thursday, October 25, 2007

University of Rochester case seeking to redefine term "Service Animal"

I have previously written here about how important it is for colleges and universities to act proactively and have a service animal policy in place. This policy should note the characteristics that differentiate a service animal from a therapy animal. The reason for posting about this today are some recent news articles and internet postings I’ve come across. I’ll discuss one of these on this post and write more very shortly.

A University of Rochester student filed a lawsuit on Oct. 1 to
have her Labrador retriever live with her in her dorm
and also Accompany her on campus. She has supplied some medical documentation as well as also supporting documents from dog trainers, but the university has denied her request, stating that she is neither disabled nor her dog a service animal. The comment by the UR Dean implies that they feel her dog is a pet and not a service animal.

In the article linked above, you might note two of the very credible sources the reporter sought out for their perspectives on this matter. First, there is
Jane Jarrow,
a name widely recognized and respected in disability service circles. Secondly, the reporter also sought input from the president of
Guide Dog Users Inc.,
an affiliate organization of the
American Council of the Blind,
one of the two major national blind consumer organizations. Both Jane Jarrow and GDUI are established and credible resources about service dogs and where they fall in under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One other source cited in the article raises an issue of its own. You will notice the Psychiatric Service Dog Society (PSD) is presented as a respected and established organization. I’ll hand it to the organization. I’ve not heard of them prior to this article, but when checking out
the PSD web site,
the organization certainly appears legit. Additionally, the PSD Board of Directors is impressive and well credentialed. While we may not have heard of this group previously, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot more from them in the future as well as people fighting to have accessibility with their psychiatric service dog.

Getting back to the original case, because I have no knowledge of the student’s claims or the documentation presented, I will not take a stand on this matter. However, her case serves to illustrate the need once again to have these important policies in place before facing these kinds of situations.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article. Public education is slow coming it seems, especially in universities. ;)

Ron Graham said...

Thanks for your comment and an interesting thought. You use the term “public education” in a novel context, one which greatly applies in this situation. Instead of the public school systems being thought of as public education, it is applied to higher ed.

And, I might add, you put it in a nutshell very well, to say it is slow to come.