2019 NYSASA (Save the Date) Conference

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News reports have described a passenger bringing a “comfort peacock” on a United Airlines flight in January 2018 and an “emotional support kangaroo” brought into a McDonald’s restaurant in Wisconsin during February 2015. Would your school district be legally obligated to accommodate a comfort peacock or an emotional support kangaroo? Should a student bring such an animal to school?

You will be relieved to know that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides no protection for comfort or emotional support animals in schools. School districts are not required to permit animals unless they meet the definition of a “service animal.”

The ADA and its implementing regulations define a service animal as an animal that has been trained to perform work or tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. A “person with a disability” is defined in another federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.

Dogs are okay – and sometimes miniature horses

Generally, only a dog can serve as a service animal. A rodent, for instance, would not meet the definition of a service animal, notwithstanding a Frontier Airlines passenger’s effort in October 2018 to have her baby squirrel considered a service animal.

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