Can the School Refuse to Allow a Service Dog?

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Service DogCan 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.

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

Check your state regulations regarding service animals.

Filing a Complaint

When schools refuse to comply with this guidance publication, parents may file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Get Questions and Answers about OCR’s Complaint Process.

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.

Consider –

  • 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.

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9 Comments on "Can the School Refuse to Allow a Service Dog?"

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My service animal is a dog and it’s task is if I start to faint or have anxiety attack. They are saying it’s not a service dog. I got a video on it and proof of it and every thing. They’re saying that some one is allergic to my service animal when that person don’t have to go near it and they said it can go out of control when it is a service animal. so can I turn them in for that..yes or no? thank you

Yes! You may even file a law suite for discrimination! Please push to keep your Service Animal!

If the dog is for emotional support or comfort, yes they can.

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. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
ADA Requirements: Service Animals –

I’m not sure why schools have so many problems with service dogs, however they do. My son’s school won’t even allow his service dog on campus for two minutes that it takes me to walk to his class and pick him up. Every time I get the ok to bring his dog its great for two-three days, then they send someone else to tell me to leave. The school even went as far as having a police officer ask me to leave. The schools really make trying to help our children a very difficult task even more than normal. I have now gone to the school board and hopefully we get better results this time.

Service Dog Mom & Handler

This is blatantly illegal. Call the disability rights folks in your area/state, call the news media, call the attorney general, call the Office for Civil Rights. Ask the police officer why s/he is failing to uphold your son’s right to have his service dog accompany him anywhere the public is permitted. Even if you aren’t seeking to have the dog accompany him to school all day every day the next family might wish to do so.

Please take a step, make a start and “pay it forward,”

I am being told that my 9 year old child can bring his dog but that the dogs trained handler cannot enter the classroom. My son is developmentally delayed and can not control his dog at this stage of his life. So they want me to leave the child at school with the dog. Nobody at the school had been trained with the dog. My child has not been able to go to school since 1st day. His backpack is full of his new school supplies and he has his new shoes and waits all day with his superman backpack to go to school. It is MEDICALLY unsafe for the dog and handler to be separated. No one knows the dogs commands or signals the dog is making for my son. They would have to go through extensive training to learn that. We have no choice and no voice.

Make this request again in writing to the principal. If the answer is still no, you can appeal this up the chain of command, following the district’s policy on appeals.

It is the district in the attorney that are not allowing him in the school so it is to the highest people possible at this time

Having a service dog for my daughter is a far, far away dream to come true. I can’t afford financially to have one. My daughter is 11 years old and has diabetes type 1. I help her as much as I can. She knows what to do depending on her situation, but what if she can’t help herself because her sugar is low? Well, I compare myself with a service dog and please don’t misunderstand me.
I’m so happy that service dogs are allowed everywhere now because of their amazing job they can do.
This year 2016 I requested to the School District Director Of special needs students to let me volunteer helping my own daughter during the State Test. They said yes but really didn’t let me because I would cause Chaos!!! I’m the mom and wasn’t allowed to stay.