Special Education

Dogs and horses and iguanas? Oh my.

By Nirvi Shah — March 08, 2011 1 min read
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The role of service animals—those that are recognized as doing work or performing tasks for the benefit of people with disabilities—has gone to the dogs.

The Department of Justice cracked down on which animals qualify for this important role, after complaints from advocacy groups that some people were abusing the service animal provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Like the man who takes his iguana, Skippy, wherever he goes in San Francisco.

Instead of using animals to lessen the effects of disabilities, some animals have been used for emotional support. For other animal owners, using the service animal label meant saving money and convenience: Animals can travel with them on planes and enter buildings where they wouldn’t be allowed if they were revealed as plain old pets.

Paradoxically, at the same time animals have been let in everywhere under the guise of the ADA, it took three years for an Oregon student with autism to get permission to bring his dog to school. The Hillsboro School District wouldn’t allow the dog because they said 4th grader Scooter Givens didn’t need his German shepherd to help with his behavior.

According to an article in The Oregonian, “Scooter is prone to violent ‘meltdowns,’ especially when startled. Sometimes the 5-foot tall, 150-pound boy runs flailing at people, including classmates. When he’s with Madison, Scooter wears a belt that is attached to a harness on the shepherd. When Scooter tries to bolt, the dog sits or digs his claws into the ground and pulls back, stopping the boy.”

Now, Scooter will be allowed to have the dog at school on a trial basis.

There will be one exception to dogs under the Department of Justice’s revised regulations: Trained miniature horses can be used as an alternative in some cases.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.