Thursday, 13 December 2018
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Longwood student advocates to change service dog in training policy

Looking to seek change to Longwood University’s policy on service animals in training, Ellen Tucker, a sophomore nursing major, is training a dog herself while attending Longwood. At this time, the policy will not be changed but Tucker said she will continue to advocate for it.

Tucker said she is a “volunteer puppy raiser” with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). She attends Longwood as a commuter student and raises a future service dog. The dog she is responsible for, Peru, is seven months old. She will train Peru until she is two and half years old, when she will go to professional training.

“So my main responsibility as a puppy raiser is socialize her, get her use to different types of people, different types of situations that she could be put in when she’s working,” Tucker said. “Different sounds, you know, like taking her to basketball games and taking her to places where she has to be quiet for a long period of time … So that’s basically my responsibility and also giving her training her (with) 30 commands.”

Per Tucker, the dogs she and other CCI puppy raisers train eventually become service dogs. They may become hearing dogs, facility dogs, skilled companions and service dogs, all of which can provide help with specific needs.

At Longwood, Tucker said her goal is to be able to have service dogs in training, like Peru, in classrooms. Currently, Peru is allowed in “all of the public buildings” but access is restricted regarding classrooms and Longwood managed housing. Tucker wants to have the policy changed to allow service dogs in training into classrooms and housing. Additionally, she said she would like to start a club at Longwood for training future service dogs.

“They (Longwood) told me that they prefer to not have her in classrooms and on residence halls, which really puts a halt on my ability to start a club,” Tucker said. “I’ve written a constitution, kind of got that start going, but now I’m kind of hit a wall because I want this to be accessible to students.”

Per Tucker, Student Government Association (SGA) Senator Catherine Swinksy has assisted her in her efforts.

Swinsky said the process would mean speaking to disability services, drafting an SGA resolution, having it sent to Faculty Senate and then have the handbook changed.

“Even if the (Faculty) Senate approves it, then it has to be changed in the handbook and that could take another year,” Swinksy said in an interview before the resolution had been presented to the Office of Disabilities and Resources (ODR).

In SGA last week, Swinsky gave an update that the proposal had been rejected by ODR. Tucker said she had received an email from Swinksy that the proposal had been nixed but Tucker plans to continue to advocate to have service dogs in training on campus.

“I’m going to continue to advocate. I’m considering (advocating for) changing the laws, either over winter break and into the spring or the summer too, because Longwood is kind of pushed me to that point,” Tucker said. “Even though many schools have made the exception and changed the handbook (Longwood has not).”

According to Tucker, Longwood was “worried about people adopting dogs and saying, ‘oh, this is my service animal in training,’ but how I was going to change the handbook, I was going to say that the dog in training (had to be with) with an accredited organization.”

Tucker said, “I’ve been stepping back because I need to reestablish a lot (of) what I’m going to do” but is still interested in Longwood changing its policy.

Although fully trained service dogs are allowed in classrooms per the student handbook, service dogs in training are not allowed in classrooms at this time, per Swinksy.

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