Posted on 02/04/2019 at 02:26 PM by Blog Experts

There are a number of questions schools face with the introduction of service animals accompanying students with significant disabilities or substantial limitations when compared to their peers.  It is sometimes difficult for school staff to know what to do when this request is being made.  Some information that needs to be considered at the outset of this request is around whether the service animal is trained, in training, or has not been trained at all.

Federal law specifies a dog has to be trained to be considered a service animal.  State law can extend this guidance (https://educateiowa.gov/ada-regulations-service-animals).  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, organizations that provide public goods and services should make "reasonable modifications" in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a "no pets" policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities. This publication provides guidance on the ADA's service animal provisions and should be read in conjunction with the publication ADA Revised Requirements: Service Animals.

Some suggestions for what schools may want to do:

  • If the purpose for the animal is not clear, ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.
  • Ask whether the service animal is current with their vaccinations, licenses, and treated for and free from fleas and ticks.
  • Determine reasonable accommodations for the animal’s care and feeding, rest, and plan for emergency evacuation and fire drills.

Links to additional information:

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