Service Animals in the Classroom

Guidelines for Working with Service Animals and Handlers in the Classroom

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its subsequent amendments establish that service animals shall not be excluded from university/college facilities or activities. The ADA defines service animals as, "dogs (or miniature horses) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities." Examples of such tasks include:

  • Alerting people who are deaf
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • Reminding a person with a mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

Please Note: Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a service animal has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability.

Interacting with Students (Handlers) and Service Animals

If you have a student with a service animal in your classroom or using the services or facilities in your department and the service animal's purpose is apparent (i.e. guide dog for an individual with a visual impairment), you should not ask the handler any questions about the use of the animal. You may, however, discuss practical issues surrounding the use of the animal, such as appropriate seating for handler and service animal, or breaks for the animal.

When it is not obvious what service the animal provides, please be aware that limited inquiries are allowed. Faculty and staff may ask the following two questions:

  • Is the service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task(s) has the animal been trained to perform?
    • Please Note: You cannot ask about the individual's disability/diagnosis, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the animal, or ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

General Service Animal and Handler Information for Faculty and Staff

  • Service animals must be under the control of the handler at all times. In most cases, this means the animal should be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work, or the individual's disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. If you have concerns about the control of the animal, contact the DSO.
  • The animal must be as unobtrusive as possible. The service animal should remain next to the handler at all times. Students and staff should not touch or interact with the service animal while it is working.
  • If the animal displays out of control behavior (i.e. aggressive or disruptive behavior, such as uncontrolled barking), you may inform the individual that the service animal must be removed from the room or activity. Never separate the service animal from the handler. You must permit the individual to continue to participate in the class/activity without the animal's assistance, if the individual chooses. Please contact the DSO to determine a long term plan of action concerning the animal.
  • The animal must be "housebroken" and the handler is responsible for cleaning up after the animal. If the animal is not housebroken, or the animal becomes sick (i.e. vomiting or diarrhea), you may ask the individual to remove the animal and to clean up after the animal. Again, you must permit the handler to continue to participate without the assistance of the service animal, if the individual chooses.
  • If other students express concerns about the animal in the classroom due to fear or allergies, you may attempt to solve the problem by placing the students in separate areas of the room. Be careful not to place either individual in a remote area or to isolate them, however. If there is no apparent solution, please contact the DSO.
  • If the animal poses a problem with a particular activity (i.e. a project that requires a sterile environment), you may ask the handler to remove the animal for the duration of the activity, but you must allow the individual to continue to participate in the activity. The animal may only be removed during the period where the animal presents an identified problem.

Please contact the DSO if you notice an animal that is not being cared for or seems to be abused (needs water, flea infested, in poor condition, poorly treated).

When You See a Service Animal and Handler:

  • Remember that service animals are working animals. Please do not pet, call to, or otherwise distract them while they are working. A dog in a harness is on duty, even when sitting or laying down.
  • Service animal handlers (sometimes individuals with visual impairments) listen to traffic flows and other sounds to decide when it is safe to cross a street, so please do not honk your horn, shout at them, or otherwise distract them.
  • Please give right of way to a service animal team, whether you are in a car, on a bicycle, or walking on foot.
  • Service animal handlers have been taught the proper and humane way to maintain their service animal's training, using verbal commands and leash corrections. Service animals get loads of praise for a job well done.
  • Remember, Federal and State law allow service animals the right to access everywhere the public is allowed, even in restaurants and grocery stores.