Take Note: Does the dog stay--or go?

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The Clark County, Nev., school district is doggedly pursuing a legal appeal of a court decision that would require it to allow a music teacher to bring a dog to school each day.

The teacher, Anne Buchanan, is a volunteer trainer for a California-based organization that provides dogs to serve as companions or guides for people with disabilities. Ms. Buchanan wants to bring Maria, a 4-month-old golden retriever, to school each day to train the dog to become used to people and public settings.

School officials in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, have objected to having the dog in school, arguing that it could pose a threat to students and could distract the music teacher from her work.

But Ms. Buchanan argues that a Nevada law requires that certified trainers of guide dogs have the same access to public facilities as people with disabilities. She sued the district last month and won a preliminary injunction allowing her to bring the dog to class.

"The law says you have to accept training dogs anytime you would accept a guide dog," said Richard Segerblom, Ms. Buchanan's lawyer.

The district, however, this month won a delay of the preliminary injunction while the matter is appealed to the state supreme court.

"The school district would have no problem if the dog were necessary to assist the music teacher in the performance of her duties," said Ray Willis, a spokesman for the district. "But if the dog is there for training purposes, it is possible it will distract her from her duties."

The district also has safety concerns, and some parents have objected because their children are allergic to dogs, he said.

Charlie Creasy, the director of development for Canine Companions for Independence, said the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based organization has 3,000 volunteers nationwide, including many "puppy raisers." However, the group is not a party in the dispute, he said.

--Mark Walsh

Vol. 15, Issue 03

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