Community college changes service animal policy

Published: Jan. 11, 2018 at 10:38 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2018 at 6:04 AM EST
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Southeastern Community College rewrote its rules regarding service animals.

The president of the college, Anthony Clarke, said the school has never had any problems with service animals. As of right now, it doesn't even have any students with service animals.

The new policy is part of the school's strategic plan for 2017-20, according to Clarke.

Clarke said a previous policy was broad, and didn't clearly define what a service animal is.

The new policy defines a service animal as one that performs a specific task for students, like pulling a wheelchair or sniffing out something the student is allergic to, Clarke said.

"Hopefully, it will help students who maybe have a disability that they need a service animal to help them," Clarke said. "Hopefully, it will allow them to come to campus and be successful in their studies. We want to be as open as possible and as welcoming as possible, given the health and safety of others."

This policy is different than one for a therapy animal, which accompanies someone with a disability. Therapy animals are not covered under this policy, but Clarke said pets on campus will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Students have to register the animals with disability services, and keep the animals on a leash when they're in public.

"I think going in our position would be to welcome everyone, so that's where we start, and unless something happens with the service animal or they're causing a danger to people or to the health and safety of employees, then we would go ahead and address those issues," Clarke said. "Our intent was to once again meet our requirements with the Americans With Disabilities Act."

Students are on board with the proposed policy.

"That should be a goal then if it's there to help to better a student and what they're doing and what they came here for. Then, by all means, pass it," Naja McDonald said.

The board will vote on the policy Tuesday.

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