DOJ: University must allow emotional support animal in student housing on campus

Picture: Kent State University Building
Picture: Kent State University Building

Emotional support dogs will now be allowed in student housing at Kent State University (KSU), after the school settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department claiming the school discriminated against students with psychological disabilities.

The DOJ filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleging that KSU violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. According to the lawsuit, in 2010, KSU denied a request to allow a student with a psychological disability and her husband to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated student apartment. The students, along with the Fair Housing Advocates Association in Akron, Ohio, filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The DOJ said that HUD investigated the complaint, determined that KSU had violated the Fair Housing Act and referred the matter to the department.

“Providers of on-campus housing have the same obligation to comply with the Fair Housing Act as other housing providers,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled in the case that the definition of “dwelling” included student housing, which meant the FHA applied for purposes of determining whether to allow a comfort animal. The court found that the school’s policy was too narrow and needed to be expanded to include the broader definition of assistance animals under the FHA. According to the settlement agreement with the DOJ, Kent State University has agreed to pay $145,000 to settle the lawsuit.

In addition, KSU will:

    • pay $100,000 to two former students who sought and were denied a reasonable accommodation to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated apartment;

    • pay $30,000 to a fair housing organization that advocated on behalf of the students;

    • pay $15,000 to the United States; and

    • change its policy to accommodate similar requests going forward, by adopting a housing policy that will allow persons with psychological disabilities to keep animals with them in university housing when such animals provide necessary therapeutic benefits to such students and allowing the animal would not fundamentally alter the nature of the housing.

Picture: emotional support dog
Picture: emotional support dog

If your school or University is in need of accessing their compliance with the various disability related Federal standards, contact the national consulting company Accessology, here http://www.accessology.com .

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