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Service Animals at College and University

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In this article, we outline the Postsecondary Committee’s recommendations for service animals at college and university.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on publicly-funded colleges and universities. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other education settings, including:

  • Privately-funded colleges and universities
  • Transitional job training programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming postsecondary education standards.

Service Animals at College and University

The Committee recommends that colleges and universities should create and implement clear policies and procedures regarding service animals. These policies and procedures should concur with requirements under the Customer Service Standards that specify where service animals are permitted and not permitted. For example, the Standards require organizations to welcome trained service animals with harnesses and identification from healthcare professionals. However, the Standards do not require welcome for support animals without training or identification. Similarly, service animals cannot enter kitchens or other food preparation areas. On the other hand, service animals can accompany their handlers in cafeterias and other locations serving or selling food.

Moreover, policies should recognize that rules forbidding pets on campus do not apply to service animals. Since service animals are not pets, they must be permitted on campus in areas where pets would not be allowed.

Furthermore, colleges and universities should post their policies publicly and in accessible formats. Likewise, all residences and other student housing that colleges or universities control should post their service animal policies publicly. Alternatively, colleges and universities should work with third-party student housing providers to ensure that they post their policies publicly.

In addition to posting policies, staff and students can also learn best practices for interacting with service animals. These guidelines will help staff and students behave appropriately around peers, colleagues, students, or staff who are service animal handlers. Some best practices for interacting with service animals in elementary or high school settings may also apply to situations in college and university.