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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Service Dog Decision in Oregon

An earlier post dealt with a Hillsboro, Oregon, school district that forbade a child on the spectrum from bringing a service dog to school. The district has now reversed itself. KATU in Portland reports:

Due to a federal investigation, the school district had to make a decision, and Oregon’s attorney general laid it out bluntly: It could be a long, expensive lawsuit. So, Scooter Givens’ service dog, Madison, will be allowed during a trial period at Patterson Elementary.

“We’re thrilled; we’re absolutely thrilled,” said Scooter’s mother Wendy.

By being tethered to Scooter, Madison keeps him from bolting and can find him if he does run off. He also helps to calm the 10-year-old during violent tantrums.

“Madison’s trained to touch him or nuzzle him and kind of distract him from that,” said Wendy.

The debate really hinged on whether Madison is a service dog or a therapy dog. Therapy dogs are not covered by the ADA but service dogs are. And service dogs can be used for people with autism.

“A therapy dog to me wouldn’t be highly trained,” Wendy said. “It isn’t tasked trained. It couldn’t do the tethering. It couldn’t do the behavior disruption. So I knew all along this was not a therapy dog. I think the school district may have just been saying that to try and slip this through.”

“We felt that it wasn’t necessary to bring in the dog,” said Beth Graser, spokeswoman for the Hillsboro School District. “If we had seen early on that the student was not able to access his education, we would have allowed the dog a lot sooner.”