Assistance Animals (SIDEBARS) Lawsuit paves way for paws on campus

Jenna Kuczkowski

Lawsuit paves way for paws on campus

Assistance animals have only been allowed in on-campus residence halls since January 2016, which was the result of a 2014 lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Kent State.

Jacqueline Luke, a former geography major who graduated in 2013 and suffered from anxiety attacks, was wrongfully denied the accommodation of an untrained therapy dog. Luke signed a non-disclosure agreement, not allowing her to comment.

Luke wanted to keep a dog in her residence after a university psychologist recommended that the animal would help alleviate her anxiety and made a request through Student Accessibility Services (SAS).

The university’s refusal drove her to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which later sued Kent State.

According to the lawsuit, Kent State employees refused to allow students with psychological or emotional disabilities to have assistance animals in university housing.

The suit also charged Kent State with discriminating against students with psychological and emotional disabilities who need to live with assistance animals and instead, favor accommodating students with other types of disabilities, such as mobility disabilities or vision impairments.

In January 2016, Kent State employees involved in the case signed a consent decree, or a settlement where someone agrees to take specific actions without admitting fault for the situation that led to the lawsuit.

The document stated Kent State would implement the “Policy on Reasonable Accommodations and Assistance Animals in University Housing” on campus and agreed to begin offering accommodations for students struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.


How to apply for an assistance animal

Jenna Kuczkowski

To apply for an assistance animal, students must first register with SAS and set up an appointment to meet with Julie Di Biasio, interim director for SAS, to talk about their needs.

From there, students can submit an application for permission to have an assistance animal on campus.

With this application, students need to provide written proof from a licensed doctor or psychiatrist.

If approved, students will then be required to provide vet records and go through further meetings with SAS.

If not approved, the student can seek legal advice if he feels that he was wrongfully denied.

Jenna Kuczkowski is a general assignment editor, contact her at [email protected].