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A101 - Service Animals

 Administrative Letter #101 Service Animals - Approved 07/27/2014

DATE:            July 27, 2014 

FROM:          Karen Bess, Student Services Director 

SUBJECT:     Service Animals 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­A service animal is any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Emotional support, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the American with Disabilities Act (28 C.F.R. Part 35).  Other animals whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purpose of this definition.  

The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have an animal for emotional support.  A doctor’s note does not turn an animal into a service animal. 

All requests for students with disabilities to be accompanied by a service animal must be addressed in writing to the Superintendent or designee, the Director of Student Services, at least 10 days prior to an IEP/504.  District level considerations may include requiring documentation as to whether the animal: has been spayed or neutered; is current on vaccinations (annual documentation required); has been treated for ticks and fleas; is licensed within the county; as well as inquiring as to what task the animal has been trained to perform and how does the service animal alert its handler/student to an impending incident. The District may not require documentation such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal.  The owner of the service animal is liable for any harm or injury caused by the animal to other students, staff, visitors and/or property.  The owner must provide proof of current liability insurance coverage as required to the District/Board of Education. 

It is then up to Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 team to determine whether the service animal is required because of a defined disability, and how will the animal impact the student’s academic and behavioral functions to support his/her education; the team must determine if the student does in fact need the service animal for equal access to educational services and programs; considerations should also include the student’s ability to handle and control the animal.  A student/handler must be responsible for the animal’s care, supervision, feeding and clean up. If the student is unable to do so because of his/her disability a handler (non-school personnel; parent/owner) must be assigned (and pass a background check, as per School Volunteer Policy 1105). Service animals are not to be petted, touched or spoken to unless authorized by the animal’s owner. No other individual besides the handler should feed the animal.  If the student requires transportation as a related service, arrangements for the transportation of students with service animals must involve the Director of Transportation.  

The handler must control the animal by a harness, leash, and tether or if using such interferes with the animal’s duty; the animal must be controlled by voice control, signals or other effective means. An individual accompanied by a service animal is encouraged to identify the animal by exhibiting one or more of the following: the animal’s laminated identification card; service vest or other form of ID. 

The district (Superintendent or designee, Director of Student Services) may exclude or remove a service animal if: the animal is out of control (including barking, growling, whining, demonstrating aggression, annoying behavior, solicitation of food, etc.); has not been housebroken; causes interference with the educational program of any student (including fear); constitutes a “fundamental alteration” in the nature or service, program, or activity; has cleanliness concerns; causes severe allergic reaction. Animals that are trained to provide aggressive protection can be excluded; however, breeds of dogs that are perceived to be aggressive because of their breed reputation, stereotype, or history cannot be excluded unless they fail to meet one of the above criteria.

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