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Service animal regs bite campus registration policies

New guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice
University Business, September 2015
Colleges and universities cannot require registration of service dogs.
Colleges and universities cannot require registration of service dogs.

Higher ed administrators with questions about service dogs on campus can find answers in new guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Written in FAQ form, it covers the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act to service animals, as well as clarifies which animals qualify as service animals and what administrators can ask students about the tasks their service animals will perform.

The biggest change is that colleges and universities cannot require registration of service dogs, although voluntary registration could still be beneficial, says Paul Grossman, adjunct professor of disability law at the UC Hastings College of the Law in California.

“In case of emergency, you still want to know who are the disabled people on campus and what kind of disabilities they have,” says Grossman. “For example, if there is a shooter on campus, you want to know who has PTSD and how you can help them and their service animal.”

College and university staff also can’t ask for a dog to demonstrate its task or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. The only two specific questions that can be asked are: “Is a service animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”

The Department of Justice says comfort animals, or those that provide emotional support, are not service animals, which means colleges have the right to prohibit them on campus. Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that’s been trained to perform tasks for someone with a disability, says Olabisi Okubadejo, an attorney at the Ballard Spahr who advises colleges on complying with the ADA and other laws.

“If a student says their pet makes them more peaceful or at ease on campus, it’s not enough,” Okubadejo says. “However, if the animal is trained to alert a student with anxiety that they’re about to have an attack, that’s an acceptable situation.” To view the complete DOJ Service Animal FAQ list, visit http://UBmag .me/9g. —L.W.

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