If you are a SD handler going to college- READ THIS.
I’ve made reference to this “legal issue” with my college a few times in my posts but here I am to finally reveal what the fuck is going on.
So what happened was last semester I got in contact with a woman in the Office of Disabilities Services at my college in regards to possibly brining a Service Dog to college. Keep in mind I was only considering it at this time (early January). When I first met this woman in a meeting in ODS she was kind at first, accepting of my many questions regarding Service Animal laws and school policies, until I asked her a question about one law in particular (the right to not ask what my disability was or what my Service Animal is for, ie. the 2 question law) and she turned on me quickly, becoming very rigid, defensive, angry, and even took a very negative tone towards me telling me “the school is different they can ask what they want.” She even started to tell me that I didn’t need a Service Animal. (She was very discriminatory because my illness isn’t very visible) Now I didn’t know the laws very well at the time but I still knew something was up. I left her office very upset, shaken, and nervous to come back. Later in the second semester I came in contact with a Service Animal trainer who had a dog for me that I was going to bring in the Fall of this year, so I e-mailed ODS and told her the news that I did in fact get a Service Dog. This woman demanded vaccinations, a letter for proof of training, a doctor’s note, and for me to fill out a school form that said “Therapy Animal” (and when I told her outright that my dog was in no way a Therapy Animal she got very angry and said that form, even when it clearly said Therapy Animal, was for Service Animals too). I will be honest, it was the last few weeks of the semester, I was very stressed. So, I gave her everything she demanded of me for that dog. She also sent me an email that she Cc’d the Housing Director in and asked me, quite outright, what my disability was so the Housing Director could see my medical problems as well!!
I came home for the summer, got my first Service Dog, and 2-4 weeks later something happened with that dog I had and I had to get a new dog. I contacted ODS and she was kind about it and told me to just re-send everything. A few weeks past and I came in contact with a new dog trainer who worked with me and placed me with a new Service Dog (Junior). She educated me and trained me very thoroughly, then on my spare time I continued to educate myself on the ADA Service Animal Laws. My trainer works WITH the ADA, she has been all over the world and even was called to Orlando, 9/11, and dozens of other disasters to bring search and rescue dogs and first response dogs. She even trains dog for celebrities and veterans. She’s done this for 45 years. She knows her shit. Upon researching and learning from her I saw that EVERYTHING ODS had done to me was SEVERELY illegal. My trainer called the Director of Human Resources, told them everything that went on and even told them that I’d sue them if they didn’t stop and they called an emergency meeting with ODS. ODS emailed me that night telling me just to send in his rabies and we would be done.
Now, typically I would be done right there because I would have thought that after what happened with me and that emergency meeting she would’ve been educated and told never to do this again. But unfortunately that is not the case- a very close friend of mine (who I will not disclose for his privacy) who is bringing an Emotional Support Animal contacted me with a document that ODS had sent him to fill out/sign in regards to having an ESA stating that he felt something was wrong with it. Upon further inspection I found that the majority of this “ESA Procedures Form” the college was using went against the ADA and FHA and what it defined as an Emotional Support Animal and made absolutely illegal requirements/demands. I took that document, highlighted the illegal/incorrect information, and cited the Americans With Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, Animal Legal and Historical Center of Michigan State University College of Law, and the ADA National Network to show how it was incorrect/illegal. I attached this edited document in the email I sent to ODS with my dog’s rabies for her to review and offered her my help in making a new one for the school as well as offering my help to educate the staff and students about Service Dog laws, the difference between an ESA, Service Dog and Therapy Dog, and etiquette when meeting a Service Dog- all while explaining that I am very passionate about this topic (being a Service Dog handler myself) and that the school could face severe legal action if this problem is not addressed. I send this on 7/27 and still have yet to have a response. So what did I do? I emailed the Director of Human Resouces with that document, photos of the illegal emails, and wrote exactly what happened and how it made me feel and how I could pursue legal action. I sent that email last night, I will keep you posted if I get a response back.
What’s the moral of this story? If you have a SD KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. I cannot, CANNOT, stress that enough!! Know the ADA, FHA, and HIPPA like that back of your hand. Have the facts. Because this was so illegal and it just hurt me so much going through this process. A lot of it happened in finals week too. Colleges HAVE TO follow the ADA, FHA, and HIPPA. They cannot make up their own rules (it even says so on the ADA). They cannot ask you what your disability is, they can’t force you to reveal ANYTHING. They are only there to process paperwork. They cannot ask you for proof of training (no one can!), medical records, a doctors note, or anything except for rabies. They can only require a doctors note for an ESA. Not a SD. Know that. Also if you feel something is wrong or illegal… DO SOMETHING! Stand up for yourself! If you don’t feel comfortable taking action yourself call the ADA hotline! Report them! They’ll take care of it! Trust me! Im calling them next week if I don’t get a response! I’ve heard of so many colleges walking all over disabled students and it makes me sick… stand up and fight. Its ok to ask for help too.
I hope this helps you all. I’m still fighting this battle and I plan to win. I will not allow this corruption to continue for others to struggle. I just can’t. I’ll fight for those future students and all the current ones too. I can’t let this happen. Wish me luck.