For the past few semesters, there have been therapy dogs visiting campus to calm nervous students before finals. Although students may enjoy loving on cute animals, many are unaware of the services that guide, therapy and emotional support dogs can offer.
Now increasing in popularity on college campuses, the differences and privileges associated with emotional support dogs, therapy dogs, and guide dogs can be, and has been, misunderstood. Outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, service animals are described as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.” Service animals must be permitted entry into any business or environment that the individual with the disability would be able to enter.
Under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination against tenants is prevented and guide dogs and emotional support dogs are covered under this legislation; however, therapy dogs are not. According to The Humane Society of the United States, “Even if a lease says “no pets” or restricts pets, landlords are required to make what is called a “reasonable accommodation” to allow pets who serve as assistance animals, which includes animals who provide emotional support.” Even though emotional support dogs are not protected by ADA, they are protected under FHA and can be kept on college campus housing properties.
Currently, TWU Disability Support Services collaborates with the Housing department on the matter of guide and emotional support dogs on campus and in TWU housing properties. Director of Disability Support Services JoAnn Nunnelly explained the requirements for approval include filling out an application with DSS and providing a doctor’s note proving the animal is not just a part of a treatment plan, but the individual has a diagnosed disability that requires services from a guide or emotional support dog. This information is backed up on the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network website that states: “It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s note does not turn an animal into a service animal.”
For those labeling their animals as emotional support or therapy dogs to forgo inconveniences, whether it be as small as not having to leave their companion at home to avoiding expensive pet airfare. Even though it may seem harmless to bring a pet into a restaurant or library, it brings negative speculation for those who have disabilities and require the services provided by service dogs.