Juvi Gardner, a student in the general arts and science, music industry arts program, was asked earlier this fall not to bring his emotional support dog, Zeke, with him while he played for Thunder’s varsity basketball team.
Martha Peak, the Student Association’s athletics administrator, delivered the news to Gardner in an email on Sept. 10, stating it’s for the safety of the dog and the students.
Gardner still has questions surrounding emotional support animals on campus. And he is not alone.
“I was confused as to why you’re telling me ‘no,’ because I’m asking for the rules,” said Gardner. “I just want to know what the rules are.”
Though many people believe that an emotional support animal classifies as a service animal − it doesn’t.
An emotional support animal is not defined nor protected by the law unlike a service animal.
According to Lending a Helping Paw: An Overview of the Law of Service Animals in Ontario, emotional support animals are not specifically trained to perform a task−such as guiding a person with a visual or physical impairment. However, they do provide comfort and support to the owner.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has clearly stated that emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals thus, it is up to colleges to decide whether the animal is permitted on the premises.
So, at anytime, students with emotional support animals can be denied having their support animal on certain premises.
It turns out the increase in the number of students with emotional service animals across Ontario is starting to gain attention.
For example, George Brown College’s AODA policy classifies an emotional support animal as a service animal and allows students to bring them on campus.
“George Brown has already implemented it in their policies,” said Gardner. “There’s other schools that are already adhering to the emotional support dog laws.”
At present, Algonquin has not yet done this. But this is now changing.
“This is starting to come up that I’m aware of,” said Claude Brulé, president of Algonquin College. “We need to pay attention to this. Under our vice president of student services, we’re looking at the policies and we’re looking at it as well provincially.”
For the moment, Gardner still has no clear answers about his emotional support dog.
But for Algonquin students with emotional support animals in general, the hope is that this will soon change.
“We’re aware that we need to have better policies so that everyone is aware of what they can do, or they shouldn’t do but we’re not there yet,” said Brulé. “It’s a work in progress.”