Service Animals in Schools – A New Federal Rule


In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued new regulations under the part of the Americans with Disabilities Act that applies to school districts and other public entities. Most of the new regulations relate to architectural and communications barriers. The regulations also address an issue of particular interest to school districts: service animals. Like most rules, this one has two key components: a definition and a command.

The Definition

Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals … are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability.

The definition goes on to provide examples of canine work that brings a dog within the definition of a service animal:

Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Conversely, the definition lists kinds of canine work that do not qualify a dog as a service animal...

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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