I received several e-mails about Sarah Sevick this week. Sarah is a student at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. She’s majoring in public relations and has a psychiatric disability that causes her to have panic attacks in stressful public situations.
Granted I would probably rethink my major if I were Sarah, but apparently she’s decided to confront her problems head-on.
Sarah also has a service animal she wants keep in her dorm room and take to class with her. College officials have denied her request.
Why? Well, many people think it’s because Sarah’s service animal is a ferret.
That’s right, apparently her ferret (Lilly) nuzzles her and calms her down whenever she has a panic attack.
Now I’m not denying Sarah’s disability, but I do dispute her legal classification of Lilly as a service animal.
In fact, I contend the college has a right to boot the ferret. Why? Not because it’s a ferret, but because it’s not a service animal. In my humble opinion Lilly is an emotional support animal.
So what’s the difference? Well, one is protected under the ADA, while the other is not.
Now if Sarah were in a wheelchair and the ferret could pick up things and turn lights on and open doors for her (hey it’s possible), then the ferret would be a service animal. But in my book, nuzzling and cuddling really fall into that emotional support category.
On the other hand, emotional support animals are specifically mentioned in the ACAA, and (with proper documentation) are allowed on some airplanes. But we’re not talking about airplanes here, we are talking about a college campus.
To be honest, I really hate it when these things hit the press. No wonder people with legitimate service animals have credibility problems.
All it takes is one ferret to ruin it for everybody.