Policy Number: I-53
Last Reviewed: October 13, 2022
Responsible Dept.: Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs in conjunction with the Office of Disability Services
A signed copy of this policy is available in the President’s Office.
This policy applies to all students, employees and visitors.
Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) is dedicated to the belief that all people should have equal opportunity to develop and expand their skills and knowledge. The college does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, political affiliation, age, sex, or disability. In keeping with these commitments, service animals are permitted on College property, for persons with disabilities, in accordance with relevant state and federal law and the requirements of this policy.
Service animals are allowed to accompany their handlers at all times and everywhere on College property, except in an area where specifically prohibited due to health, environmental or safety hazards. Service animals may also be prohibited when their presence fundamentally alters the nature of a program or activity. Service animals in-training, that meet the requirements of Virginia law, are permitted on College property on the same basis as working service animals.
Emotional support animals (ESA) and pets that meet the requirements of Virginia law and local Roanoke City ordinances, are permitted in outdoor areas of campus only, and cannot be left in vehicles. ESA’s and pets are not permitted inside VWCC’s buildings and facilities.
Disability: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A disability may be physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental.
Handler: The individual who utilizes a service animal to perform work or tasks pertaining to that individual’s disability.
Trainer: The individual designated to accompany and train a service animal-in-training.
Custodian: The individual who utilizes an emotional support animal.
Service Animal: Service animals are working animals and are restricted to dogs (or miniature horses in some situations) that are specifically trained to engage in work or a task directly related to support their handler’s disability. Tasks may include, but are not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to sounds, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, turning off/on switches, assistance during a seizure, or providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability. Any other animal, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals. Service animals have the same rights of access anywhere on campus, in accordance with their handler’s rights to access, with limited exceptions based on health and safety issues, such as certain laboratories, certain medical facilities and food preparation areas. Service animals are considered an extension of their handler and should be with that person and leashed or harnessed at all times, unless there is a disability related reason why a leash, harness or tether is not possible.
Emotional Support Animal: Emotional Support Animal (ESA), sometimes referred to as “comfort animal” or “companion animal”, is an animal whose sole responsibility is to provide a crime deterrent, a calming influence, affection, stability or security to their custodian. Unlike a service animal, an emotional support animal does not assist a person with a disability with activities of daily living and do not perform tasks that would qualify them as a service animals, nor does it accompany a person with a disability at all times, but may be considered an accommodation in alleviating symptoms of an individual’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
4.1 General Guidelines
- Do not touch or pet a service animal. They are working and they must not be distracted.
- Do not feed a service animal.
- Do not deliberately startle a service animal.
- Do not separate or attempt to separate the service dog from his/her handler.
- Do not inquire for details about a person’s disability or ask a person with a qualifying disability to demonstrate the work or task performed by their service animal.
- Allow service animals in all permissible places at VWCC pursuant to rules noted below.
4.2 Handler and Trainer Responsibilities
- The service animal must wear a harness, leash, tether or backpack identifying the dog is a service animal or a service animal-in-training.
- Student handlers are encouraged, but not required to register their service animal with the Office of Disability Services.
- Student handlers are encouraged, but not required to discuss with their Instructor(s) the use of their service animal within the classroom.
- The handler must be in full control of the animal at all times.
- The handler must keep the animal on a harness, leash or tether unless the handler is unable to because of the disability, or unless this would interfere with the animal’s ability to safely and effectively perform its duties. In such cases, the animal must still be under the handler’s control through voice control, signals or other effective means.
- The handler must ensure the animal does not display any behaviors or noises that are unduly disruptive to others in classrooms or on campus.
- The animal may not fundamentally alter the nature of the College’s operations or pose an undue financial or administrative burden to the College.
- The animal must be house broken and the handler must immediately remove and properly dispose of any animal waste.
- Animals must be in compliance with city licensing laws and have up-to-date vaccinations and have a record from a veterinarian of a clean bill of health.
- The owner/handler, not the College, is responsible for the actions of their animal, including bodily injury or property damage or cleaning costs that exceed regular campus maintenance. Any damage caused by the animal that necessitates the replacement or repair of damaged furniture (beyond the regular wear and tear), carpet or extra cleaning due to poor animal hygiene will be charged to the owner/handler.
4.3 Faculty and Staff Responsibilities
When in doubt about whether a dog is a service animal, VWCC employees can only ask the following two questions of the person with custody of the animal:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
VWCC employees cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card for the dog, or ask the dog to demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Generally, a VWCC employee may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability). If after asking the two permissible questions a VWCC employee still has concerns about the animal in question, the employee should contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) during normal business hours and Campus Police outside of normal business hours.
4.4 Service Animals-in-training
Service animals in training are permitted in public areas on College property on the same basis as working service animals, provided the following conditions, as noted under Virginia law, are met (VA Code Section 51.5-44):
- The dog is at least six months of age;
- The dog is on a leash and in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a Service Animal-in-training, and the dog is accompanied by an experienced trainer.
- The trainer must be a) wearing a jacket identifying the specific Service Animals organization they represent or b) be part of a three-unit Service Animal team, comprised of the trainer, the handler and the Service Animal-in-training for on-going training in public areas.
Service Animals-in-training, their trainer(s), and handler are expected to follow the same guidelines as outlined in 4.2 HANDLER AND TRAINER RESPONSIBILITIES and are also subject to stipulations as outlined in 4.6 REMOVAL OF AN ANIMAL.
4.5 Emotional Support Animals and Pets
Emotional support animals and pets that are leashed, tethered, or being held under the control of a custodian/owner are permitted in outdoor areas of VWCC’s campus only. Emotional support animals and pets are not permitted inside of VWCC’s buildings and facilities. Custodians of emotional support animals and pet owners must abide by all rules required under Virginia law and local Roanoke City ordinances. No animal may be left unattended on campus or alone in a vehicle. Custodians and pet owners are subject to stipulations as outlined in 4.6 REMOVAL OF AN ANIMAL.
4.6 Removal of an Animal
A College official may require a handler/trainer/custodian/owner to remove an animal from the College premises for the following reasons:
- Behavior. If an animal presents disruptive behavior or is out of control such as barking, jumping, running around, showing unprovoked aggression or bringing attention to itself, and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it, the handler/trainer/custodian/owner may be asked to remove the animal from the classroom or premises.
- Threat. If the animal poses a substantial and direct threat to the health and safety of others and the threat cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodations. A direct threat to the health and safety of others may be the basis for reasonable time, place, and manner restriction.
- Uncleanliness. If the animal is not housebroken, or if the handler/trainer/custodian/owner fails to properly clean up and dispose of the animal’s waste.
- Animals left unattended. If the animal (Service Animal/ESA/Pet/Animals for Educational Purposes or Special Events) is left alone on VWCC property, or alone in a vehicle, VWCC employees will attempt to notify the handler/trainer/custodian/owner. If unsuccessful, the Roanoke City Police Department-Animal Protection and Services Unit may be contacted.
There are no automatically excluded dog breeds of service animals and an inherent fear of a service animal or allergies is not sufficient reason to have it removed. If a service animal is properly excluded under this policy, VWCC shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.
4.7 Conflicting Disabilities
Persons with medical condition(s) that are affected by the presence of a service animal (e.g. respiratory disease, asthma, severe allergies) should contact the Office of Disability services to discuss their health or safety related concern about exposure to a service animal. The College will engage in an individualized assessment of the situation and consider the needs of all parties in meeting its obligation to provide reasonable accommodations. In an effort to provide swift resolution, the person making such a request will be required to provide sufficient medical documentation that will allow determination to be made as to whether the conflicting condition would warrant the provision of an accommodation.
4.8 Service Animals in Laboratories and Potentially Hazardous Environments
Every effort will be made to grant access to all areas that are open to any other student, faculty member, or member of the public. Service animals have the same rights of access anywhere on campus, in accordance with their handler’s rights to access, with limited exceptions based on health and safety issues, to include certain teaching laboratories, mechanical rooms/custodial closets, areas where protective clothing is necessary, and areas where there is danger to the service animal. Reasonable accommodations and considerations will be made to allow access to these locations.
Considerations for access may include:
- What services will the dog provide during the lab?
- Is there an acceptable alternative way of providing those services during the lab?
- How does the dog interact with and/or alert its partner?
- What emergency procedures are needed for the dog and its handler?
- What areas of the lab are safe or potentially hazardous for the dog?
- What protective equipment and/or clothing is appropriate for the dog?
- What is necessary to minimize or prevent negative impact on others in the lab?
To be granted an exception:
A student or visitor who wants her or his service animal to be granted admission to an off-limits area should contact the Office of Disability Services. The College will engage in an individualized assessment of the situation and consider the needs of all parties in meeting its obligation to provide access and/or reasonable accommodations.
4.9 Animals for Educational Purposes or Special Events
Animals who are approved and scheduled to be on campus for educational purposes or special events, must be kept in the area designated for that purpose and are not to be taken to other parts of the campus or left in vehicles. Handlers for these animals must abide by all rules required under the laws of Virginia and local Roanoke City ordinances and are subject to stipulations as outlined in 4.6 REMOVAL OF AN ANIMAL.
Any student who is not satisfied with a decision made concerning a purported service animal or emotional support animal may file a written complaint as outlined in the grievance procedures noted in college policy I-26 Students with Documented Disabilities.
Any employee with a disability who is not satisfied with a decision made concerning a purported service animal or emotional support animal may file a complaint under the College’s discrimination complaint procedures.
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