Clever Companions

Our animal friends are enormously talented in providing assistance and comfort. Those of us with pets can attest to the healing power of a welcoming bark or meow when we arrive home at the end of a challenging day. However, our furry friends are capable of far more; they can provide service, emotional support, assistance, or therapy support.

Service Animals

Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”  By law, a service dog must be permitted to accompany his/her partner/handler. Stockton University has a robust procedure addressing service animals on campus and the resolution process for any complaints that may arise.

Sometimes it is not obvious what functions a service dog is providing. Also, unfortunately, some individuals may misrepresent a pet as a service animal. Many states, including New Jersey, have laws against this. If concerns arise, only two questions may be asked of the partner/handler:

  • Is this service dog required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Please refer to the Service Animal Procedure for further guidance.

Image of service dog, Phoenix, opening a door for his partner, Lydia FecteauService dog partners/handlers are not required to register their animals with the University but may opt to do so. This information is very helpful to emergency personnel. To register a service animal, contact the Learning Access Program.

Miniature Horses as Service Animals

Although less common, Title II also describes miniature horses as service animals. Because miniature horses may be larger and heavier than service dogs, a miniature horse may not be permitted in some locations. Miniature horses are also described under Stockton University Procedures.

Service Animal Etiquette

If you meet a service animal and its partner/handler, please remember that this animal is working and should not be distracted. Please:

  • Do not pet a working service animal.
  • Do not feed a working service animal.
  • Do not deliberately startle, tease or taunt a service animal.
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate a service animal from its partner/handler.

Service Partner/Handler Etiquette

Lydia Fecteau, an adjunct instructor and service dog partner here at Stockton University, was interviewed for this article. As a service dog partner, she had many insights to share. You can find the full interview on the “Podcasts” page.

In our interview, she referred to the work of Rosemary Garland Thompson who is the author of Staring: How We Look. As human beings, we often stare at the unfamiliar, but this can be very de-humanizing if the object of our gaze is another person.

Lydia has noticed the humanizing effect that her service dog, Phoenix, will have on people whom she is meeting for the first time. She notes that they will first look at Phoenix and then look at her. She says that “The dog is a bridge, a communication device.”

Remember that etiquette applies not just to your encounter with a service animal, it also applies to your interactions with the animal’s partner/handler.

  • If a partner/handler appears to be disoriented or confused and is unable to direct his/her service animal, please offer assistance.
  • Remember that a person with a service dog is a person. Don’t stare.

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal may be any legal animal that helps to alleviate emotional distress in a person with a documented disability. An emotional support animal is not trained to perform specific physical tasks. Registered emotional support animals are permitted in Stockton University residence halls, but not elsewhere on campus. Students wishing to bring an emotional support animal to campus must complete an application process and be granted approval. For full details, please refer to the Stockton University Emotional Support Animal Procedure.

Assistance Animals

Assistance animals are trained to perform specific physical functions in a specific environment. These animals cannot readily transfer their skills to new environments and are not considered service animals. One example of an animal in this category is a monkey trained to help an individual with mobility impairments.

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals – most often dogs – are trained to provide comfort and affection. Therapy dogs may be found in hospitals, long-term care facilities, mental health facilities, schools, and stressful environments (e.g., disaster areas, Stockton campus at move-in time). Therapy animals are always accompanied by their handlers and will only be present in environments where they have been invited. A therapy animal must have a calm demeanor and must readily comply with the directives of its handler.

Image of therapy dog, Holly, and her handler David BatailleI had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful therapy dog and her handler at the July 2018 Ability Fair. Dennis Bataille and his dog Holly are associated with Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs.

Dennis became interested in therapy dogs after experiencing long, quiet weekends in physical rehab. He wanted to brighten up that time for future patients. Holly, in addition to visiting medical and retirement facilities, also helps children with reading difficulties. Dennis has witnessed young, timid readers blossom as they read out loud to Holly who serves as a cheerful and non-judgmental audience.

Please visit the “Podcasts” section of this blog for the full interview with Dennis and Holly.


What/Who is a “Liaison for Accessibility and Assistive Technology?”
Stockton University has created a new position titled “Academic Affairs Liaison for Accessibility and Assistive Technology”. Dr. Linda Feeney has been assigned to fill this position. Please see the “About” page in this blog for more information on how this position will impact the University.

ePortfolio Accessibility
As of September 1, 2018, the Digication e-Portfolio product has been updated to a new interface. Faculty who assign portfolio projects should be a aware that this new version is not yet fully accessible. The Blackboard ePortfolio is accessible. Contact the Center for Learning Design for further assistance.

Inclusive Learning
A variety of free, online opportunities are available to help you learn more about fostering an inclusive learning environment. Future Learn is hosting two online learning opportunities: Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments (3 weeks, starting September 3, 2018) and Education for All: Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion (6 weeks, available now). Canvas is hosting Accessibility: Designing and Teaching Courses for All Learners (Self-paced, start any time)

Syllabus Statement
Faculty are encouraged to include an Accessibility Statement in each course syllabus. Click here for sample text.

Important Reminders::(1) A student with an accommodation plan may invoke that plan at any point in the semester. Faculty may not set a deadline for notification of accommodations. However, students may be reminded that accommodations are not retroactive. (2) Be sure to follow the plan provided by the Learning Access Program (LAP). Do not make any special arrangements with the student. This can create legal liabilities.

Quick Tip – PowerPoint 2016
To save a slide deck in a text only format, click on File, Export, Create Handouts, Create Handouts, Outline only, OK. Edit this file, insert any non-decorative images along with alternate text descriptions.

Online Video Accessibility
This webinar will be held Thursday, September 20, 2018,
2:00 PM Eastern Time. It will explore video accessibility issues and solutions in depth, including tools, services, and strategies for addressing video accessibility needs throughout large organizations. There will be with a specific focus on video accessibility in higher education. There is no charge for this session, but you will need to set up an account. Click here to register.

Inclusion in Science Learning
Independence Science will be hosting a conference at Princeton University, September 14-15. Michael Hingson, author of Thunder Dog, will be the keynote speaker. The registration fee is just $20 dollars and the conference will address “innovative research that seeks to integrate persons with disabilities into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).”

To request an appointment or further information, please email Linda.Feeney@stockton.edu

1 comment

  1. Tracie Barberi-Matthews

    Great article!! In my clinical practice at a hospital, I oversee a pet therapy program which consists of over 40 dogs and 2 miniature horses. The animals indeed bring comfort and a positive distraction to patients as well as staff and visitors. Kudos to Stockton for being open minded of non traditional modalities that provide invaluable support to students and campus staff.

    Tracie Barberi-Matthews
    Visiting Professor

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