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Letters: Animals on campus pose a threat to students with service animals

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. Letters to the Editor reflect the view of a member of the campus community and are submitted to the publication for approval.

Dear Collegian,

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If you walked through the Lory Student Center at any given time, it would not come as a surprise to see two or more students accompanied by dogs. The number of animals on the Colorado State University (CSU) campus has exploded over the past several years. While some of these dogs may be service animals, many of them are not; and that is causing major concerns for handlers of service animals.

Only dogs, and rarely miniature horses, are service animals. Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Title 11 and Title 111 as, “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

Tasks that a service dog provides are active tasks, such as guiding a person who is blind, assisting someone with mobility impairment, assisting someone with a seizure disorder, or interrupting a panic attack for someone with mental health condition. Because of the work they do, service dogs are protected under the ADA and are allowed to accompany their handlers around the majority of campus including classrooms and other campus buildings.

Through behavior and obedience training, service dogs learn to be attentive to their handler and not aggressive toward people or other animals. They are required to be fully vaccinated, house broken, and licensed in Larimer County.

For more information on service animals at Colorado State University, visit rds.colostate.edu.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and other non-service animals pose a distraction to the work that service dogs must do for their handler with a disability. These animals can act not only as a distraction to service dogs, but too often also act aggressively towards them. If a service dog is distracted from its handler the dog cannot provide the service it is trained to do. This can actually be life threatening in the case of service dogs used for medical alerts. It makes navigating campus problematic for all of the people who use services dogs to assist with some aspect of their substantially limiting disability.

This threat extends beyond dogs. Students bring a variety of other animals: cats, sugar gliders, birds, and reptiles to name a few with them to classes. None of these animals are service animals and can act as a distraction or threat to service animals.

Because of the increased number of animals on campus CSU has created and implemented a campus-wide policy regarding service animals and emotional support animals. The policy outlines the differences between the two types, and the areas of campus they are permitted. The policy also outlines the repercussions for violating the policy. If a student brings an ESA to class with them they can be taken through the conduct process.

Fort Collins and CSU are dog and animal loving communities. We’ve gotten used to seeing dogs in Old Town, at breweries, and on campus. What many people don’t realize however is that, when bringing a non-service animal to campus it not only can be a distraction and/or a threat to service animals, but it also contributes to a false idea of what service animals are.

For the sake of people with disabilities and their service dogs, please leave your ESAs and pets at home.

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