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Student with service dog sues university over ADA violations

Michigan readers may know that some people with disabilities use service animals to help them participate in daily activities. However, keeping a service animal at a living site can raise complications if it exacerbates a roommate’s allergies. That is the question currently before a U.S. district court.

A sophomore sorority sister at The Ohio State University’s Chi Omega house is suing the school’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for forcing her to find alternative housing because another sister is allergic to her service dog. According to court documents, the plaintiff suffers from severe panic attacks that inhibit her ability to breathe. Her service dog, Cory, is trained to crawl onto her stomach during an attack, which relieves her symptoms. His presence also helps reduce the frequency of her attacks. However, another resident of the Chi Omega house complained that Cory exacerbates her allergies, asthma and Crohn’s disease. To resolve the conflict, the school’s ADA coordinator decided to let the sister who first signed the lease agreement stay in the house. That person was the sister with allergies.

In response, the plaintiff sued the school for allegedly violating the ADA and the Fair Housing Act, claiming that allergies cannot be used as an excuse to deny housing to individuals using service animals. A district court judge heard the case and issued a preliminary injunction, which allows the plaintiff to stay in the sorority house for now. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.

An individual who has been illegally denied housing may benefit by discussing their case with an attorney familiar with the ADA. An attorney could review the case and help gather the documentation required to file a legal complaint.