Who locked the dogs out?

Graphic by Victoria McNorrill

Graphic by Victoria McNorrill

Alex Miller, Staff Writer

Looking into the eyes of a furry friend, it’s hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t want their constant love around. However, most colleges don’t hold the same view, including NGU. 

In NGU’s Enlightener it says, “Aquarium fish are the only pets allowed in the residence halls.”

When asked whether this rule would ever be changed, Billy Watson, director of Student Services, said

“I don’t see us allowing more than fish, for many reasons, namely the sanitation and care issue. There’s also a roommate to consider; some people are allergic, or animals can be disruptive to sleeping and studies.”

While NGU is adamant about its policy against pets, there are situations in which they would consider making an exception.

“There has been an instance where we’ve had a blind student who required a service dog in order to attend school. In that situation, we made an exception because that’s a highly trained animal,” Watson said.

Service dogs are permitted on most college campuses. However, the issue of comfort pets can be controversial.

In 2013, a lawsuit was filed against the University of Nebraska at Kearney for its denial of student Brittany Hamilton to own a therapy dog.  Unfortunately, the Americans with Disability Act, or ADA, does not directly outline the rules regarding therapy dogs for students with psychological disorder.

In Hamilton’s case, she was on anti-depression and anxiety medication, which caused breathing and sleeping problems. Despite her medication she still suffered from anxiety attacks so her doctor prescribed a therapy dog to calm her.

The ADA strictly says “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals”

Making the call on whether to allow comfort pets is a difficult one, because mental disorders often do not manifest themselves in a noticeable manner, as do physical disabilities like blindness or epilepsy.

So how do you decide who needs a comfort pet and who just wants one?

“There are some who have the emotional need of a comfort pet, but that must be documented by a psychiatrist or doctor’s note in order for us to consider allowing it”, Watson said.

Clearly, there are doctors prescribing these animals to people. Universities must learn to respect their expertise.  Unfortunately in the Kearney case, Hamilton was unable to win and often had to return home because she could not function without her dog keeping her anxiety and depression under control.