As the title of the Bob Dylan album and song states, The Times They Are A-Changin' (367) Fortunately for administrators at postsecondary institutions, they have the ability to control most of the changes dealing with companion animals on campus. As discussed above, students with disabilities accompanied by service animals, as defined under federal or applicable state law, must be accommodated. (368) The recent ADA rulemaking that restricts the protection of the ADA to persons using service animals that are individually trained canines (and, with some limitations, miniature horses) serves to clarify the federal law on this issue.
The issue of emotional support animals or assistance animals under the FHA is a more challenging issue for administrators. (369) Even though an educational institution is not required to allow such animals under the ADA, given the recent activity by HUD and the DOJ applying the FHA to campus housing, administrators should implement a policy allowing for such animals. Students with documented disabilities who can benefit from an assistance 77animal (but may not require a service animal) should be given the opportunity to be treated as if they were in private housing. By adopting a policy now, an institution can avoid litigation and can consider its own environment and structures to determine what will work best for the institution and the students it serves.
The issue of allowing companion animals on campus requires administrators to weigh the costs and benefits. The costs--from possible animal welfare issues, an administrative time perspective, and other risks--appear to outweigh the benefits of general student well-being and providing an opportunity to distinguish one institution from other institutions from a student recruitment standard--at least as far as allowing animals in housing for most institutions. (370) If an institution determines that it wishes to allow animals in housing, partnering with a local rescue organization or service dog in training organization can alleviate some of the concerns over the care of the animals and possible abandonment issues and provide an excellent opportunity for students to serve their community. Administrators can consider the policies at the institutions that have granted students this privilege to determine the best structure for their campus.
Allowing regular animal-assisted activities on campus and encouraging service activities helping animals off campus also may provide the needed outlet for students who are unable to keep an animal during this busy period of their lives. By considering these issues in advance and implementing thoughtful policies, educational institutions can prevent problems with humans and companion animals and provide for a positive environment on campus for everyone.
(1.) Am. Pet Prods. Ass'n, 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey 49 (2011) [hereinafter APPA] (reporting that ninety-four percent of people with dogs and ninety percent of people with cats agree that a benefit of owning a pet is companionship, love, company and affection). The APPA survey is a comprehensive survey on pet expenditure and ownership that takes place every two years. The methodology used by the APPA to create this data is similar to that used by the American Veterinary Medical Association. See, e.g., Am. Veterinary Med. Ass'n, U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook 129-30 (2007) [hereinafter AVMA]. This data is derived from a survey of households and cannot be considered a definitive census of the pet population. Notwithstanding the foregoing, these two sources are widely used to estimate the pet population and information regarding pet owners in the United States. For purposes of this Article, it should be assumed that all numbers cited are estimated, even if not denoted as such.
(2.) APPA, supra note 1, at 2 (reporting that sixty-one percent of the U.S. population owned a pet in 1998, with the percentage ranging from sixty-one to sixty-three percent through the 2011-12 survey). …