This year, Loyola University Maryland has added new students to their campus: service dogs in training.
These service dogs in training are given to people who would like to be a puppy raiser. One must train the puppy by house training, basic training, such as sit and stay, bringing them everywhere so they may be comfortable in all social environments and eventually, certain training to help them in their "career," such as pulling open a door and pressing a handicap button on a door.
The organization Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers came to Loyola University Maryland's campus last school year, as well as in the fall of the 2016/2017 school year. Since then, many students on campus have volunteered as puppy raisers.
The non-profit organization, based out of Virginia, supplies a raiser with food, some toys, a list of commands, a service dog in training vest and of course, a puppy. When the puppy comes of age, the raiser gives the dog back, which will then be placed into a family who needs it.
SDWR trains their dogs specifically to their forever home's needs, so training is not general, but more personal. The phrase SDWR put on their vests, and on their website, is, "Until there's a cure, there's a dog." SDWR dogs will be trained to be Diabetic Alert dogs, Autism Service dogs, PTSD Service dogs or Seizure Response dogs.
Many Loyola students have volunteered with the organization to help someone have an easier life in the future. Especially as college students, this job is hard work and is not "just getting to have a puppy at college." These volunteers go to trainings, do bi-weekly check ins, bring their animal everywhere, spend their own time training a puppy and even more. While college life may be stressful, these students are taking on even more responsibility in order to make a difference in someone's life.
However, recently Loyola University Maryland has had issues with these service dogs in training on their campus. There have been complaints from employees, as well as students, about the dogs being trained.
Currently, Loyola University Maryland is attempting to ban all service dogs in training on their campus.
The school has tried to create many different arguments for their reasoning. First, in the beginning, there had been issues about the dogs defecating on campus and sometimes it not being cleaned up. Maintenance has complained about this issue as they now have to clean up dog poop. However, this is not the fault of puppy trainers, which the blame is going toward.
Since volunteers are busy college students, at times they may not be able to watch their dog in training. When they are given to someone to watch for that short time, accidents may happen. Those watching the dogs do not know the regulations and rules of having the dog. They probably do not have a poop bag, panic and leave. There have also been some who do not really care and do not think it is their job, which is incorrect. While this is not exactly an excuse, the blame is being put on raisers who know the rules and regulations and do pick up after their dog, and other dogs. To add, Loyola's campus is not enclosed. Anyone from the community can walk onto campus without question. There are often many people who walk their dogs on campus, and many have witnessed them not picking up after their dog. Yet, this does not seem to be considered. While these types of "potty" incidents have not been a problem for quite some time, Loyola has continually brought this up as a problem, and threatened to fine all students with a service dog in training. To my knowledge, students with their own emotional support animals or service dogs that help students with their needs have not been informed to curb their dog or the idea of receiving a fine. For some reason, the blame is just on the SDWR dogs.
Not only this, but Loyola has claimed there are many students who have complained about the animals due to allergies. Staff of Loyola informed some of the puppy raisers that students with allergies to the dogs were complaining about not being able to go to class because a dog is in their class, or was in the classroom before them. Students have reportedly had to move classrooms or take exams outside of class time. Other students have complained that the dogs being in class is distracting for them. Essentially, Loyola said these dogs are affecting students' learning. Loyola decided the dogs should not be allowed in classes anymore or academic buildings to respect students with allergies or who are afraid of dogs or easily distracted.
Loyola's dining services have also claimed to have issues with the puppies. They believe it is a hazard and that the dogs will not behave. Many students who are training these dogs have had rude, unprofessional encounters with the dining staff in regards to their animals. As students try to calmly explain how they are allowed to be in the dining halls with the dogs, some staff has reportedly singled them out in front of other students. Some dining staff has yelled at students to get out and said they are no longer allowed to be in the dining areas with the dogs. One staff member reportedly told a student he will get her food for her rather than having the dog be in the dining area. Due to this, Loyola has banned service dogs in training from being in dining areas.
Now, I hope you are still reading, because this is where I explain the issue.
What Loyola is doing is illegal and wrong.
Specifically, since Loyola University Maryland is in Maryland, the banning of these dogs is illegal under this section in Maryland law:
T(k) (1) In this subsection, "service dog trainer" means a person who trains service dogs for blind or visually handicapped persons, deaf or hearing impaired persons, or mobility impaired persons.
(2) (i) Except as provided in paragraph (3) of this subsection, a service dog trainer may be accompanied by a dog that is being trained as a service dog in any place where a blind or visually handicapped, deaf or hearing impaired, or mobility impaired person has the right to be accompanied by a service dog.
(3) A dog being trained as a service dog accompanied by a service dog trainer may be excluded from any of the places described in this section if the admission of the dog would create a clear danger of a disturbance or physical harm to a person in the establishment.
Those who are training a dog to become a service dog have the same rights as someone with a disability who needs a service dog. It says it very clearly in Maryland law. It also states service dogs in training may be removed from certain places if the dog would create a clear danger of a disturbance or physical harm to a person in the establishment. These service dogs in training on campus have not been a danger or created physical harm to any person on campus. They are not a clear danger to anyone. Therefore, under Maryland law, the volunteers and their puppies cannot be removed or banned from an area. However, since some organizations do not consider themselves under this law, Loyola is using that to justify their banning.
The school is not only going against what the law is protecting for these puppy raisers and the puppies in training, but they are also discriminating, prioritizing one group students over others, being disrespectful and disrupting the dogs' training.
First off, by banning the service dogs from classes and social situations and allowing them to only be in resident halls and outdoors is taking away the purpose of their training. These puppies are allowed to be in classroom settings or on trains or in gyms or wherever due to the fact that one day, they will be going to all those places and more in order to make sure someone stays alive, safe and calm. If they are only in resident halls or outside, they essentially become a regular house dog, which is not at all what they are being trained to do. Their essential training, which is the amazing thing about being on a college campus, is to allow them to interact with many different people and to know when to work vs. when to play. When they have on their vest and go to class, the dogs know they cannot go up to people or seek attention. While in class, the dogs are learning to lay down and be quiet. They are learning to behave and not eat table scraps. That is all a part of their training. If we are unable to associate a dog with a class room setting and people, what is going to happen when that puppy becomes a service dog for a student and does not know how to act in class? That puts more stress on someone with a disability, and takes away from their ability to go to work or school. Also, to leave a dog in a crate in a room all day is not fair or healthy for the dog and can turn into abuse when it becomes excessive. It is not possible or logical to not allow the animals to do what their training requires.
To add, the school has been been disrespectful and rude to students, and also is taking away basic rights. There have been multiple rude encounters with the school and puppy raisers. Frankly, it is very unprofessional and rude. There have been incidents where some volunteers have asked to speak to certain staff about the problem to which they have been ignored. Certain staff members have created a bias, as they are less likely to help or respond to students who have a puppy they are training. Not only this, but Loyola is taking away students' rights to things like going to class or eating. Some people may not know anyone to watch their dog during class, probably because their friends have class as well, or they may live alone. So then what? The dog gets crated all day without stepping outside except to go to the bathroom? Or else the student will have to miss class because their being of service to someone else is not allowed in a class room. If a student is running around all day and has not eaten and cannot put the dog in its crate or have someone watch it, and goes into a dining area for a late lunch, the school is saying they are allowed to deny that person a meal. Meals that people are paying money for. We pay money for meal points and meal swipes, but because someone has a service dog in training with them, they are being denied their right to eat a meal. How is that fair? How does that make sense?
To include, the school is prioritizing certain students, as well as being discriminatory. As previously stated, the school is discriminating against the SDWR dogs and their trainers. A handful of the volunteer puppy raisers have disabilities themselves, such as PTSD, anxiety and depression. These are disabilities that are unseen to the eye. However, since the student has an animal, it has been an excuse to yell at them. How would you feel if you had anxiety and are training a dog to be a service dog not only to help yourself during the time being, but also to help another individual in the end, and to be yelled at in public? Or to be told you cannot have the dog? The school is not taking into consideration their own students needs. Since a student may have an allergy, that is taking priority over a student who may be suffering from a disability themselves and use the dog to bring them joy and comfort, but it is also taking priority over someone out there who has a disability and needs that dog. Because someone has an allergy to a dog in a classroom and does not want to schedule exams in a different area (which is what some students with disabilities do on a daily basis), or the school does not want to have a "no dog" classroom and make sure students with training dogs do not go in that room for their classes, or take allergy medicine for a 50 minute class, or sit on the opposite side of the room, or even speak up to the puppy raiser and politely ask them not to take the dog to that specific class, students and people's disabilities are being compromised. Because a student has an allergy, a 3 year old Autistic child may not get the service dog he needs in order to learn. Someone with Diabetes will not get the help they need to keep their sugar regulated because a student thought the dog being in class was too cute for them to use their own will to pay attention in class. Students who have disabilities, such as PTSD or anxiety, who are training these service dogs, or students who are training them to do a good deed and help someone who needs it, are seen as an inconvenience.
I personally have not heard one single complaint from a student about these service dogs in training. Whenever most of the students on campus sees a puppy, they light up. Some say how it is the best day ever or how it made their day. Students become so excited when they are allowed to pet the puppies and when a dog is in their class. Taking these dogs away is taking away the happiness of the students. If someone is depressed and having a bad day, gets greeted by a dog and licked on the face, it can literally make a drastic impact on their life. These dogs are also encouraging students to take responsibility and to do a service unto others. They are volunteering to help change someone's life. They are volunteering to deal with the struggles of potty training a dog and throwing up and the difficulty of training a dog to do certain things and the embarrassment of when it goes awry, all for the good of another.
Loyola University Maryland is based on this idea of "Cura Personalis," which means the development of the whole person, which can include academically, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Loyola is also a Jesuit institution.
Their mission states, "Accordingly, the University will inspire students to learn, lead, and serve in a diverse and changing world...Students are challenged to understand the ethical dimensions of personal and professional life and to examine their own values, attitudes, and beliefs...Loyola seeks to prepare our graduate students for lives of meaningful professional service and leadership...Loyola will do so by providing undergraduate students with a liberal education that transforms them, that ensures they place the highest value on the intellectual life, and that instills in them an understanding that leadership and service to the world are intimately connected....inculcating in them the knowledge that service to the larger world is a defining measure of their professional responsibilities fully understood." This was taken directly from the Loyola website.
I believe that as a Jesuit institution that prides themselves on students who serve should not be taking away a service opportunity. This ban is invalidating these dogs and their service. It is saying we as students cannot serve in a way like this. It is saying that even though we as puppy raisers may know someone who needs a service dog to help them, that our trying to make a difference in their life is not allowed. Saying we cannot train dogs to be of service to those with disabilities is not sending out a good message to those on campus with disabilities, who may even receive one of these dogs one day if needed. What is happening here is wrong. Loyola needs to reach out to other schools who have service dogs in training on campus and ask about how they deal with situations, such as allergies or defecating. Loyola is taking away students' right to a meal, to joy, to responsibility, to help themselves personally and to serve.
As of publication, Loyola has sent an email to faculty stating:
"Dear faculty member,
As you may be aware, a number of students on campus have been raising puppies for the purpose of becoming service dogs. One of these students is in your class. The puppies have become too disruptive for our campus and we have received numerous complaints. We met with all of the students and have informed them that puppies are no longer allowed in academic buildings or dining spaces."
There it is, in writing.
Please share this and tell everyone. Until there is a cure, there is a dog. And there should be dogs at Loyola University Maryland that can be that service and companion for someone in need of it. And students should be given the opportunity to do that, not have their opportunities to make a difference taken away.