Can a school refuse a service dog for a child with behavior and emotional disability because they do not allow any pets? The school does not want any animals on school property and is not permitting a service dog for my daughter.
Guidance on the Service Animal Provisions DOJ Regulations
This 2011 publication provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department of Justice final regulations (2010) implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II and title III.
How a Service Animal is Defined states: “Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.”
Special Rules Related to Service Animals states: “Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.”
New Technical Assistance
The Department of Justice received so many questions about how the ADA applies to service animals, the DOJ published a 2015 FAQs document about Service Animals. http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf
This new 8 page technical assistance documents states:
“The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to 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.”
Check your State Regulations
States handle the question of service animals in school differently.
Virginia defines service dog as, “A dog trained to accompany its owner or handler for the purpose of carrying items, retrieving objects, pulling a wheelchair, alerting the owner or handler to medical conditions, or other such activities of service or support necessary to mitigate a disability.” Code of Virginia §51.5-44
Filing a Complaint
When schools refuse to comply with this guidance publication, parents may file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
OCR has investigated cases where schools refused to allow service animals.
We are not aware of OCR supporting any school district’s position that they can discriminate against children over service animals.
This letter from OCR describes an investigation and OCR’s findings:
After reading these documents from the United States government, you will probably know more than most of the administrators at the school.
- making copies of these documents
- providing them to the admins at the school
You will find this new guidance and more information about Discrimination: Section 504 and ADA here.