Should Service Animals be Allowed at Schools

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Rosa Shvartsman, Staff Writer

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we have,” said Thorn James, a New Zealand Politician. Animals hold a strong place in many people’s hearts, but ones with physical and mental disabilities may rely on animals specifically known as service animals. A service animal is defined as an animal individually trained to work specific tasks for people who struggle with day-to-day life. In addition under the ADA service animals must be leashed and controlled by their owner. The ADA is known as the Americans with Disabilities Act this is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in everyday life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. Service animals show extraordinary effects on a student’s life who may struggle with mental or physical disabilities, but recently there’s been a debate whether service animals should be allowed on school grounds. 

  “Sometimes the best medicine has four legs and a wet nose,” said Jennifer. W a member of the Warrior Canine Connection program which helps train service animals for veterans.  Furthermore, service animals should be allowed at school due to a student’s mental health or physical disabilities/issues. One out of the five teenage students show signs of a mental health disorder and out of that category, 31.9% of teens have an anxiety disorder. More so service animals specialized in treating anxiety disorders can benefit students by notifying the owner when an anxiety attack is close. “Coco mainly does Ptsd and medical alert and response. So she is trained to do different things to help my disabilities. She can smell my hormones change when my heart rate increases, so when I get anxious. For example, the cortisol hormone is released when a person is anxious, so she is trained to smell that and alert me by pawing at my legs,” said Charlotte Steele, a student who currently has a service animal. Similarly, service animals can help students keep track of medication and when to take it, and relieve stress  as the animal brings a comforting spirit. Then, a study showed from a California school that there was a 12% boost in a child’s reading skill when reading to a dog for 30 minutes per week. As well in higher-level education service animals show extreme comforting aspects during stressful times such as exam week. In addition to mental health disorders, there’s been an increase in school shootings of approximately 25 this year which may result in children and teens having PTSD of the traumatic event when coming to school. Schools then acknowledge the struggle of the students and provide therapy dogs to acquire a healthy and reduced fear atmosphere. All in all service animals provide stress relief as scientifically it has been proven that petting an animal can induce a stress relief hormone called cortisol. Lastly, service animals should be allowed at schools as they not only benefit a student’s mental health but also provide a confident learning environment along with a stress-free atmosphere. 

Students with disabilities may require the assistance of a service dog, but how might the presence of a dog in the classroom affect other students? Could it be too distracting?” said Kate Barrington, writer of Are Service Dogs Too Distracting in a School Environment? article. On the other hand even as service animals show great beneficial attributes in the classroom it’s been shown that they may cause a distracting and even harmful environment for other students. To illustrate service animals may cause a distracting setting due to students having an interest in a dog in a classroom. On top of that, service animals may provide a harmful environment by students having a fear of animals, or maybe even allergic. In spite of the fact that service animals may pose a distraction or threat to the classroom due to personal needs, the wow factor of having a dog in a classroom would soon wear off on students, which would lead to personal needs being taken into action by working around the issue. In the end, the benefits outweigh the cons of having a service animal in the classroom as students in reality won’t see a dog as much of a distraction as people think and those struggles can be met and taken care of by the school. 

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source,” said Doris Day, an animal welfare activist. Given these points, it is shown that service animals are a must in the classroom due to the benefits of a student’s mental and physical health which outweigh the cons of the animal being distracting. Overall certified service animals should be allowed on school grounds all around the world. Do you think service animals should have a place in the classroom?