Although you might not have noticed, there are several service dogs on our little campus here at S&T. When service dogs are needed there are some things everyone should be made aware of.
First there is a difference between the definition of a service animal and an assistance animal that needs to be cleared up. According to the Policy Memorandum, “Animals on Missouri S&T Campus” these definitions are:
Service animal: Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. For the purpose of this policy, police K-9s are also considered service animals as well as any other animal that works for emergency personnel.
Assistance animal: Any type of animal that may or may not be specially trained but provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of a mental or psychiatric disability. Assistance animals are not considered service animals.
Second, now that we understand the definitions of service and assistance animal it is important to acknowledge that both types of animals are to be left alone to do their jobs. This means if you see a service animal in a campus building like Toomey Hall, ignore their cute fuzzy faces or else it might mean life or death to their human partner. Assistance animals in residential halls are still trained to do an important job, and their human partners have to go through paperwork to have their assistance animal to be with them, so do not approach or pet them without permission from their owner.
By federal law service dogs are allowed to go everywhere with their partner, and their partner does not have to answer any questions other than to confirm that the dog is a service dog and what type of service does the dog provide. This is because a service dog is legally the equivalent to medical equipment like a wheelchair. They are providing a service which could be keeping their human alive like an oxygen tank, you would not go up to an oxygen tank and tell it how cute you think it is.
Unfortunately, assistance animals are not allowed in campus buildings like service animals, but this does not mean they are any less important. Assistance animals still provide a crucial role in their human’s lives. This might mean helping them with anxiety attacks or depression, but just like a service animal you are not allowed to ask why they have their assistance animal because it is a violation of HIPAA (protects private medical records) and also because it is very impolite.
With this information please be aware on campus and in residential halls to ignore animals doing their job. Just like when you are doing homework or on internship and you are really focused on your task, you do not want someone coming up to you and petting your head, telling you, “good job, boy!”