Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Hot Button Issue: Service Dogs - The Appeal

A recent post concerned an Illinois Judge's ruling enjoining a school district to permit a service dog for a child with autism. The school district has appealed that decision. A news article can be read here.

There seem to be a number of people who distinguish between service dogs and dogs who merely help kids with disabilities cope or feel better. There has also been a number of comments and emails concerning differences between the Americans with Disabilities Act and various state laws. Also some school district personnel and concerned about students with allergies.

What do you think? Under what circumstances should a service dog be permitted to accompany a child with a disability to school?


  1. When people pooh-pooh the value of a dog that "merely" helps kids "cope or feel better," it shows they do not understand that anxiety or emotional distress can be so disabling that it interferes with a child's education.

    It's hard for ordinary people to imagine that for some kids, school or a classroom may feel like a lion's cage with cats ready to pounce. If a service dog soothes the child enough, the classroom may still be a lion's cage, but the cats are asleep. In other words, the service dog may reduce the anxiety enough that the lion's cage becomes tolerable and consequently, the student becomes "available for learning." In educator talk, "available for learning" encompasses things like being fed, clothed, rested, or not anxious about mom & dad's divorce, not distracted by a toothache, not afraid of a bully, etc. When a service dog can put an imaginary lion to sleep, it's just what is needed for a child to become available for learning.

    Educators need to address the needs of all students. Can-do thinking will help them figure out ways to accommodate competing needs.

    - Daunna Minnich

  2. Thank you for your comment Daunna,


  3. This issue has gotten alot of press in New York as well. There is a reported 2d Circuit decision and an appellate division decision involving the East Meadow Union Free School District. Email me if you need the cite as I assign the 2d Circuit case to my students.
    Mitch Rubinstein

  4. Thanks Mitch,

    I would appreciate the cite.