The paws clause: The engagement of animals on campus

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Animal sightings at UVU have increased this semester due to students taking advantage of public policy.

Service animals are not required to wear identification, such as a vest or dog tag, making it difficult for campus employees to distinguish between pets and service animals.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are defined as dogs individually trained to work with people who have disabilities. The only other breed of animal that is accepted as a service animal is miniature horses.

Students may be surprised to one day share a classroom with a horse, since miniature horses have a lot to offer in the service field. They have an easygoing temperament and live long lives, often serving their owners for over 20 years.

Miniature horses can also be trained to perform a variety of tasks including guiding the blind and serving those with physical disabilities.

A service horse in Alaska was trained to assist a child with Ataxia-telangiectasia, a degenerative brain condition that impacts movement and coordination. The pony wears a vest with handles that the child can grasp and lean into for support.

Although the rules about service animals are clear and are enforced at UVU, certain discrimination laws have instilled a loophole for students who wish to bring animals on campus.

According to the Americans with Disabilities act, employees are only permitted to ask two questions when inquiring about a service animal: Is this a service animal required because of a disability? If so, what work has the animal been trained to perform?

“In the case of an animal in question, we don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy,” a UVU police officer who preferred to remain anonymous said. “Officers will generally ask about their life as far as having a disability and what the animal does for them, after that we usually can determine if the animal is allowed on campus.”

Any other misguided questions could cross a boundary that may be interpreted as discrimination. Since employees are limited to only two inquiries, some students have manipulated the system by intentionally giving the ‘right’ answers to those questions.

“A number of colleges are beginning to contact the Department of Justice about these rules and the concerns they have about students showing up to campus with any ordinary animal that doesn’t create a disturbance,” Edward Martinelli, director of accessibility services said.

Although service animals on campus are required to have a valid license and updated vaccinations, the only factors employees can use to distinguish between service animals and pets are the two approved questions as well as any proven cases of disturbance.

Documented instances of disturbance provide just cause for an animal to be questioned by campus employees. This classifies as an animal creating messes, barking or making disruptive sounds, or harassing other students.

“There are a number of animals on campus that I do have questions about, but I’m limited to focusing on animals that are making a disturbance,” Martinelli said. “If the animal seems to be a problem, I can ask the handler to remove the animal from campus. Animals on campus are required to be under control.”

In cases that an animal does not make a disturbance, or if it behaves like a service animal, it is possible that animal could spend an entire day on campus unnoticed. However, UVU students are asked to abide by moral standards that would prohibit passing off pets as service animals.

Some students still choose to break these moral standards by bringing their pets on campus. Students who bring animals on campus that are not service animals are jeopardizing the rights of others. The rights given to service animals on campus are reserved exclusively for those animals, not pets.

UVU Police encourages students to leave their pets at home and report any instance of an animal causing a disturbance.