Use of Service Animals on Campus by Those with Disabilities
Any dog might be trained to assist an individual with a specific disability-related need.* Guide dogs used by those with vision loss are the most commonly recognized. No licensing or certifying entity exists to legitimize the use of a service dog. Rather, the need of the individual with a disability and the specific function the dog is trained to perform legitimize the use under federal and state laws.
For more information, visit ADA Requirements: Service Animals .
Individuals who have obvious disabilities, such as blindness or quadriplegia, raise few questions. Those with hidden disabilities, hidden needs, such as hearing loss, epilepsy, autism, who use dogs may create questions.
- It is reasonable to question the presence of a dog by asking, "Is this a service dog required because of a disability?"
- It is reasonable to ask for a description of the specific function the animal is trained to perform, "What work or tasks has the dog been trained to perform?"
- It is NOT OK to ask the person to tell you nature of the disability, require medical documentation, require a specific identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
- If you are not satisfied with the explanation, you should refer the person to the Center for Students with Disabilities at (310) 434-4265 voice, (310) 434-4273 TDD, or Campus Police (310) 434-4300, for further inquiry.
Federal and state laws acknowledge that, "in rare circumstances," access can be limited if health and safety are jeopardized by the presence of a service dog. An example is certain designated areas of a medical facility, i.e., nursing program practicum sites. Areas that pose a direct safety risk to the dog are probably not reasonable locations for the owner either.
Mere speculation that the dog might pose a potential health risk to others is not supported by law. If a fellow student/faculty or staff states a health problem (e.g. allergy) with the service dog, medical documentation regarding the problem will be required for the ADA/504 Compliance Officer at (310) 434-4689, (310) 434-4273 TDD, to determine the appropriate solution for the situation.
If the dog is disruptive to the learning environment or college events, directly aggressive or threatening, or not under the control of the handler at all times, then access by the individual with the animal will be prohibited with assistance from College Police, if necessary. Such access restriction should be referred to the ADA/504 Compliance Officer or designee.
All members of the college community must behave properly with service dogs.
- Do not attempt to pet the dog.
- Do not attempt to feed the dog.
- Do not deliberately startle or distract the dog.
- Do not attempt to separate the dog from its partner or training handler.
*Note: Dogs and miniature horses are the only animals specified as services animals under federal law.
Service Animals in Science Laboratories
Service animals entering laboratories must be protected against hazardous chemicals and broken glass similar to students. Protective gear such as booties, a lab coat, or googles may be required. It is the owner's responsibility to provide and train their service animal to wear the required protective gear.
The college can provide plastic-backed absorbent paper to lie on during the lab to avoid exposure to hazardous materials on the floor.
Staff may ask two questions:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task had the dog been trained to perform?
Additional discussion with the student such as does the animal need to be with you at all times or what is the animal trained to alert to better accommodate the student's needs.
Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Animals
If a student requires an emotional support animal or a therapy animal as an accommodation, the student must register with DSPS, provide documentation from a qualified medical professional and meet with a DSPS counselor.
Accommodations are individualized and determined on a case by case basis. The same principles apply as a service animal that the animal must not be disruptive to the learning environment or college events and be under the control of the handler at all times.
An accommodation letter or a verification card approving an emotional support animal or a therapy animal will be provided to the student on a semester by semester basis.