Students with therapy pets would have to live off campus

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    Currently TCU does not offer animal-assisted therapy due to various high costs, Eric Wood, assistant director of the university’s counseling, testing and mental health center, said in an e-mail.

    However, he said animal-assisted therapy is becoming increasingly popular. The University of North Texas is one local school that does offer this specific kind of therapy.

    According to the American Humane Association website, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is incorporated as an integral part of the clinical health-care treatment process. AAT is delivered or directed by a professional health or human service provider who demonstrates skill and expertise regarding the clinical applications of human-animal interactions.

    The University of Nebraska at Kearney and five of its employees were recently charged by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Devlopment for violating the Fair Housing Act.

    The university refused to allow a student to have a therapy dog live with her in her university-owned apartment and illegally investigated the nature and level of the student’s disabilities.

    University student housing does not fall under the same guidelines as the Fair Housing Act, Craig Allen, director of housing and residence life, said. Normal apartment complexes not owned by universities are governed by different laws than private universities, such as TCU.

    Although the University of Nebraska at Kearney is a public institution, Allen said he would be surprised if they did not get their own legal opinion on this issue.

    “[TCU] has accommodations that would fit within the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act does not recognize therapy animals as something that we would have to follow in providing reasonable accommodations,” Allen said.

    If a student did come to TCU with the need to live with a therapy animal, the student would need to live off campus, Allen said.

    “Obviously, we have a two year residency requirement so that’s going to impact their ability to be perhaps a TCU student and they would more than likely end up living at home,” Allen said.

    The animals involved in pet therapy are typically owned by therapists to use with their clients, Wood said. He said he is not familiar with individuals who own therapy animals who are not therapists and that is it not a common practice to his knowledge.

    Currently, TCU is not actively looking at instituting pet-assisted therapy due to significant costs and time connected with the training for and use of this therapy, Wood said. He said animal-assisted therapy is unusual among college students, and TCU has not had a student request this specific type of therapy.

    Senior psychology major Alice Schruba said she did a research paper on animal-assisted therapy a year ago and found that if a dollar or two was added to each student’s charges, then TCU would be able to afford a couple of therapy dogs on campus.

    “People feel happier when they have dogs around. It gives them someone to talk to and relate to, and it also gives them a sense of security. It’s very comforting for people to have pets around,” Schruba said.