UConn student voices issues with other students distracting her service dog from its job.
Rebecca Romano is a fourth-semester design and technical theater major and she has had her psychiatric service dog, Luna, for four years.
Romano recently posted a complaint in the UConn Buy or Sell Facebook page.
“While she is working, I ask that you DO NOT PET my dog,” Romano said in the post.
She also asks people not to take photos of her and Luna.
Romano said service dogs need to attend to their owner’s condition at all times. By distracting the dog, you take them away from their job which could be something as serious as alerting someone their owner is having a seizure or has diabetic needs.
“I have panic attacks and [Luna] grounds me,” Romano said. “She does this thing called deep pressure therapy where she lays on top of me while I am sitting down. The pressure, me feeling her breathing and heartbeat and she might even lick me. That helps pull me out of a panic attack within 30 seconds and then I can get back to my regular day.”
Luna wears a vest that says she is a service dog and it also states “do not touch, do not stare and do not separate the canine from handler.”
According to Jennifer Lucia, the associated director for the Center for Students with Disabilities, there are six reported students on campus with service animals. Students are not required to notify the campus of their animal so there may be more.
“While many individuals who use service animals opt to have the dog wear some sort of service animal identification,” Lucia said. “It is not required by the law.”
UConn also allows students to have emotional support animals on campus but they must be registered. Emotional support animals are not limited to dogs. According to UConn’s emotional support animal policy, they are allowed on campus with permission from UConn. These animals are not allowed to enter buildings other than resident halls without permission.
According to the UConn service animal policy, if a member of the university interferes with a service or emotional animal and its duties, the individual may face sanctions.
“The best rule of thumb is to respect the individual’s space and right to privacy,” Lucia said. “Even asking an individual using a service dog if it’s OK to pet the animal may create a distraction, which negatively impacts the dog’s ability to perform their trained tasks.”
Joshua Oculam is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.