We have followed the continuing difficulties on airlines where the increasing number of therapy dogs has caused rising complaints from passengers and staff alike, including the recent bizarre case on Frontier Airlines. Universities are facing the same pressures as more students demand the right under federal law to bring their therapy pets to campus and their dormitories. At Yale, the number of such animals have increased from just one last year to 14 animals this year. This the increase has come complaints of constant barking and other inconveniences.
The Yale Daily News reported the increase and complaints from other students.
The problem for universities is that the federal Fair Housing Act ostensibly makes it illegal to deny reasonable accommodations for service animals, including emotional support animals. In 2013, HUD put out a notice that read in part:
“This notice explains certain obligations of housing providers under the Fair Housing Act (FHAct), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with respect to animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. The Department of Justice’s (DOT) amendments to its regulations’ for Titles II and III of the ADA limit the definition of “service animal” under the ADA to include only dogs, and further define “service animal” to exclude emotional support animals. This definition, however, does not limit housing providers’ obligations to make reasonable accommodations for assistance animals under the FHAct or Section 504. Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal, under both the FHAct and Section 504. In situations where the ADA and the FHAct/Section 504 apply simultaneously (e.g., a public housing agency, sales or leasing offices, or housing associated with a university or other place of education), housing providers must meet their obligations under both the reasonable accommodation standard of the FHAct/Section 504 and the service animal provisions of the ADA.”
While there is still a debate over the impact of such animals, universities are caught between a federal mandate and rising complaints. It is a very similar situation to the one face by airlines.
In 2013, a student was given a $40,000 settlement after the 28-year-old student was prevented from carrying her pet guinea pig campus at Grand Valley State University.