Proposed policy prohibits pets in buildings

Emotional-support animals, which aren’t typically trained to be in public, will be limited to University housing.

Sophia DeGarmo plays with her dog, Riley, in her apartment on Friday, March 8. Riley is a registered emotional support animal who helps DeGarmo manage her mental health.

Jack Rodgers

Sophia DeGarmo plays with her dog, Riley, in her apartment on Friday, March 8. Riley is a registered emotional support animal who helps DeGarmo manage her mental health.

Jake Steinberg

Only designated animals would be allowed in University of Minnesota buildings, according to a proposed administrative policy.

A work group led by University Services is drafting a policy that would prohibit most pets from University offices, labs and classrooms. Service animals for people with disabilities will still be permitted. But emotional-support animals, which typically aren’t trained to be in public, will be limited to University housing.

“Our main goal is to provide guidance around the issue of pets … so people know what is and isn’t acceptable,” said University Services Chief of Staff Paige Rohman.

The policy recognizes a number of conditional exceptions, such as animals used during instruction, animals on campus for medical treatment and animals recognized as official NCAA mascots or participating in patriotic ceremonies.

Rohman said a dog could bark, lunge or excrete, as well as irritate people with allergies. When an adjunct brought their dog to campus, it licked a facilities maintenance worker. “For folks of the Muslim faith, the saliva of a dog is not clean, and that created a conflict because it was not a comfortable environment for our employee,” he said.

High-profile instances of conflict between emotional-support animals and people — particularly on airplanes — inspired the University to explore creating the policy in December 2017.

Since then, University Services has been working with the Disability Resource Center, Housing and Residential Life and other partners to define what animals are allowed on campus.

Emotional-support animals are allowed in University housing under the Fair Housing Act pending approval from the DRC. The DRC approved 40 such animals last school year.

“All of the animals we see on campus are not equal under the law,” said Ben Munson, chair of the Senate Disabilities Issues Committee, which offered feedback on the policy last month.

Animal science sophomore Sophia DeGarmo lived with her dog Riley in Middlebrook Hall last year, which she said helped with her depression, anxiety and recently diagnosed panic disorder. 

She would often bring the little cavapoo to her lectures, which she said never disrupted class. “The only time a professor said anything was when I said it was his birthday and one of them wanted to sing happy birthday,” she said.

Service animals, which receive special access under the Americans with Disabilities Act, are trained to complete a specific task for a specific disability, said Alan Peters, executive director of the service dog training organization Can Do Canines.

“[Emotional-support animals] might have some basic doggy training. They come and sit next to you or on your lap and make you feel better,” he said. “But it’s not a trained skill and so it doesn’t qualify under the ADA, so, no public access.”

Munson said some people on the committee felt emotional-support animals should have similar rules. Mental health can be debilitating in its own right.

The draft policy wouldn’t leave room for people to bring an emotional-support animal to class, Rohman said. However, “as things change, laws change, court cases change, this policy will evolve to meet that.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the reach of the policy. Animals are permitted on University grounds, unless otherwise stated as prohibited. 

Correction: A previous version of this article used an incorrect pronoun for Rohman. Rohman uses ‘he’ pronouns.