Kent State Reaches Settlement in Comfort Dog Case

Ben Kindel

Kent State made large strides in social justice on Jan. 4 by reaching a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

In late 2014, Jacqueline and Brandon Lake , two former Kent State students, reached out to the Fair Housing Advocates Association after allegedly being denied reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal. A lawsuit was filed naming Kent State, the Board of Trustees, and several university employees (including the director) in violation of the Fair Housing Act.  

Emotional support animals are used to improve mental health in patients with diagnosed psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. According to research found on halfofus.org, approximately half of all college students this past year suffered from that which impeded their studies.

The settlement of $145,000, approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, is split, with $100,000 for the former students, $30,000 to the Fair Housing Advocates Association in Akron, and $15,000 to the federal government.

The settlement also requires Kent State to adopt a policy that allows students with diagnosed psychological disabilities to keep animals in university housing if they provide “necessary therapeutic benefits.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Steven M. Dettelbach, said in a press release that “Kent State University is to be commended for reaching an agreement that will benefit its students,” and  “…this agreement will help many people who are working hard to earn their fair share of the American dream.”

The university has no comment at this time regarding the settlement.

At this time questions remain as to what impact the settlement will have and if there will be a rise in the number of emotional support animals.

If a student wishes to apply for reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal, procedures for requests can be found on the Student Accessibility Services website, kent.edu/sas.

Ben Kindel is a political correspondent for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]