Is It a Pet or Not? Students Claiming Disability Assistance Animal Status for Their Mental or Emotional Health
Proceedings of the Equity Practitioners in the Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) Conference, Brisbane, 21-23 November 2017
Posted: 30 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 27, 2017
The definition of disability assistance animal in anti-discrimination laws is being interpreted more broadly than ever, as therapists and scientists identify new ways animals can assist people with impairments. Use of non-canine species and uncertainty with training guidelines are creating resource and evidential challenges for stakeholders who need to determine how to train an animal, if the animal should be certified (government), and if the animal should be granted access (university staff and students). When the disability is obvious and the animal is a traditionally accepted service dog, then the assessment is easy. For example, a blind person with a Labrador in a distinctive harness. Other situations are more complex, for example, a lady with depression with a cat; a man with anxiety and a duck; a student managing stress and their snake. This leads to problems such as who assesses the animal and handler to determine if they qualify for protected status; what criteria do they use; how do they communicate the outcome of that assessment in a way that balances privacy, but allows effective access and appropriate denials of access.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation