The University of Nebraska has published a new assistance animal policy and agreement. The significance of this policy and agreement is that the documents were developed pursuant to the University's September settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. The Agreement with Justice resolves a lawsuit in which the University denied access to housing for two students with assistance animals. Pertinent provisions of the University's policy include:
1. The definition of assistance animals includes those that "do work; provide assistance, perform physical tasks ... and/or provide necessary emotional support to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual's disability."
2. It is noted that such animals may have no formal training or certification.
3. The individual must make a reasonable accommodation request to be permitted to have an assistance animal in housing and the determining factor in permitting an individual to have an assistance animal in housing is whether the presence of the animal is necessary in order for the individual to be afforded "...an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing and its presence in University housing is reasonable."
4. Factors that will be considered to determine whether the presence of the animal is reasonable include:
The size of the animal;
"Whether the animal presence would force another individual from individual housing (e.g. serious allergies)";
Whether the animal presence "otherwise violates individuals' right to peace and quiet enjoyment's";
Whether the animal has appropriate/required vaccinations;
Whether the animal poses a direct threat;
Whether the animal "...causes or has caused excessive damage to housing..."
5. It is specifically stated that the fact that an individual has established the necessity for the animal in housing does not confer permission for the animal to be in other areas such as "dining facilities, libraries, academic buildings, athletic building and facilities, classrooms, labs... ." The policy further provides the animal "...must be contained within the privately assigned individual living accommodations (e.g., room, suite, apartment) except to the extent the individual is taking the animal out for natural relief."
6. The University reserves the right to assign an individual to a single room without a roommate to ensure that the presence of the animal "...is not an undue burden or fundamental alteration of University housing..."
7. The owner of the animal is responsible for complying with relevant government ordinances, laws and regulations, proper care of the animal, cleaning and waste disposal, damages beyond reasonable wear and tear, and the cost of any pest treatment beyond "standard pest management". Additionally, the owner is not permitted to leave the animal "...overnight in University Housing to be cared for by any individual other than the owner."
** It is not clear to what degree DOJ has approved the provisions of this policy.