Therapy Dog Banned, Disallowed by Campus HousingPublished December 28, 2011
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The lawsuit centers around former University of Nebraska student Brittany Hamilton, a young individual who suffers from panic attacks and was given a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Due to her conditions, she was prescribed a therapy dog, and obtained Butch, a four pound miniature Pinscher. Butch has been trained to relax Brittany by putting his front paws on her shoulder whenever he perceives she is having a panic attack.
After enrolling with the university in the fall of 2010, Hamilton applied for Butch to live with her due to her disabilities. Despite her needs, however, her requests were turned down three separate times.
Officials at the University said permission would be granted if Brittany could provide documentation that her dog was an officially trained and certified therapy dog. But since Butch was trained by her mother, who is not licensed as a trainer, permission was not granted.
Therefore, Butch is considered a pet and not a service animal. In a written statement, Christy Horn, the campus Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer, said, "In essence, anyone can have their doctor say they are anxious and need to have their dog, cat, snake or monkey, etc.”
As a result of her requests for Butch to live with her being denied, Brittany has withdrawn from her classes. She has filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Alleging violation of the Fair Housing Act, the campus is being sued by the Federal Government. The trial is scheduled to be held in Federal Court in Lincoln Nebraska early in 2012.
Service animals offer folks with disabilities an extraordinary opportunity to have their lives enhanced by facilitating ordinary daily tasks, attending classes, working and the ability to travel. Therapy dogs and cats consistently bring joy and diversion to hospital patients, nursing homes and hospice residents. And even though the Federal Americans with Disability Act states that Service animals must be allowed in all areas open to the public, clearly some controversy about the legitimacy about their status continues.
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