The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a lawsuit against the University of Nebraska at Kearney on October 11 for refusing to allow a student to keep a dog in her university-owned apartment to support her with her depression and anxiety.
Under the Fair Housing Act, people must be allowed to keep service animals in their living arrangements if it allows them to cope with a disability.
However, in the new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations announced in March, the Department of Justice narrowed the definition of “service animal,” to distinguish between service animals, those that help individuals with specific functions, and therapy animals, whom provide emotional support.
The DOJ will now only prosecute cases involving the narrower definition of “service animal.”
With the lawsuit against the University of Nebraska, the HUD, in contrast, has retained the broader definition of “service animals” for the purposes of its enforcement authority through the Fair Housing Act.
“Allowing a student to live with an assistance animal promotes independent living, and can mean the difference between having a college opportunity or not,” said John Trasviña, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, in a news release. “Like other housing providers, colleges and universities must follow the Fair Housing Act and make reasonable accommodations in housing for persons with disabilities.”
The university is also alleged to have “illegally inquired into the nature and severity of the student’s disabilities,” during the paperwork process when the student filed a request to keep the dog in her apartment. When the university denied her request, she was forced to withdraw from the school.