Service dogs, miniature horses to be allowed at Livingston schools

The Livingston Parish School Board approved a new policy Thursday permitting students and others to bring service animals onto school property.

The policy defines a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.”

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are specifically excluded; there are special provisions for miniature horses, which may be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

The school district does not have any service animals being used or requested for use, Assistant Superintendent Rick Wentzel said.

The policy was added to bring school procedures in line with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Wentzel said.

The federal law has recognized only dogs and miniature horses as service animals, though other animals such as goats, ferrets, pigs and even snakes have been requested for approval elsewhere across the country, Wentzel said.

Miniature horses are used primarily for people with visual impairments, for physical support and guidance, Wentzel said.

Under the policy, students or other individuals needing a service animal on School Board property must submit a written request to the superintendent or his designee at least 10 days before the animal is to be brought on campus.

The request must detail the need for the service animal and the services the animal performs.

A service animal must remain under the control of its handler, be housebroken and not “fundamentally alter” the nature of the activity in which the person is participating, according to the policy. Otherwise, the animal can be removed from the premises.

The policy also explicitly states that the School Board “shall not be responsible for the care or supervision of any service animal.”

Owners of service animals will be required to sign an agreement accepting sole responsibility for “any harm, damage or injury caused by the service animal to students, staff, visitors and/or property.”

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter @HeidiRKinchen.