Service Animals in Schools: Recommendations for School Districts

Nov 19, 2020


In today's inclusive education system, it is crucial for school districts to understand and implement appropriate guidelines for service animals in schools. This article provides comprehensive recommendations to create a safe and inclusive environment for all students, including those who rely on service animals for their daily activities.

The Importance of Service Animals

Service animals play a vital role in supporting individuals with disabilities, particularly in educational settings. These specially trained animals provide assistance to individuals with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disabilities. Their presence in schools can greatly enhance the well-being and independence of students with disabilities.

Benefits for Students

Allowing service animals in schools offers numerous benefits for students. Firstly, service animals can provide companionship, emotional support, and promote a sense of belonging, leading to improved overall mental health. Additionally, service animals can aid in increasing social interactions and reducing feelings of isolation among students with disabilities.

Legal Obligations of School Districts

School districts must comply with legal obligations when it comes to accommodating students with disabilities and their service animals. The primary legislation governing this area is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, public schools must allow service animals to accompany students with disabilities in all areas of the school, including classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, and transportation vehicles.

Guidelines for School Districts

While the ADA provides a foundation, school districts should establish clear guidelines to ensure a consistent and appropriate implementation of service animal accommodations. The following recommendations can help school districts create a supportive environment:

1. Define Eligibility Criteria

School districts should establish specific eligibility criteria regarding the types of service animals allowed in schools. This includes recognizing various types of service animals, such as guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments, hearing dogs for individuals with hearing impairments, and mobility assistance dogs for individuals with physical disabilities.

2. Training and Certification

It is crucial for school districts to verify the training and certification of service animals to ensure they meet appropriate standards. Working with established organizations that train and certify service animals can help ensure their reliability and safety within the school environment.

3. School Staff Education

School staff members should receive proper education and training on interacting with service animals and understanding the rights of students with disabilities. This includes recognizing the difference between service animals and pets, respecting the privacy of students, and refraining from unnecessary questioning or limiting the access of service animals, except for specific safety concerns.

4. Accessibility and Accommodations

School districts should ensure that all areas of the school are accessible for students with service animals. This includes providing appropriate accommodations such as designated relief areas, water access, and suitable seating arrangements within classrooms.

5. Confidentiality and Privacy

Respecting the confidentiality and privacy of students with disabilities and their service animals is essential. School districts should establish protocols to safeguard sensitive information and ensure that only authorized personnel have access to such details.

The Importance of Collaboration

Creating an inclusive environment for students with service animals requires collaboration between school districts, students, parents, and service animal organizations. Open communication channels and regular meetings can help address concerns, establish best practices, and ensure a holistic approach to the well-being of students.


By following these recommendations, school districts can provide optimal support for students with disabilities and their service animals. Creating a safe and inclusive educational environment enables every student to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Embracing service animals in schools is a significant step towards a more inclusive future for all.

Kevin O'Hara
Well-written and informative guidelines for schools! It's essential for districts to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for students who rely on service animals. Great job highlighting the importance of these animals in our education system.
Nov 11, 2023
Nicole Stevens
Great advice for schools!
Oct 8, 2023