K-State veterans press university for answers

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MANHATTAN (KSNT) – While the Kansas State University veteran community is mourning the loss of one of their own.

Jacob Horton was found dead on April 2nd. The group posted to it’s Facebook and Twitter pages with messages to Horton. “Today, the #veterans of @KState mourn the loss of one of their brothers. Worry not Jake, for #wehavethewatch #22aday,” the group said on Twitter.

As they mourn, veterans are looking for ways to cope with the loss and their own experiences at the same time. But one option, may not be open to them.

The group found out that emotional support dogs are not part of a class of animals allowed on campus.

“An emotional support animal can be more of a just, an animal with very little training but serves the purpose of meeting an emotional need,” K-State graduate and veteran Aaron Estabrook said on Friday. “If that helps even on veteran, it’s done it’s job,”

KSNT News reached out to Kansas State on April 8 and April 11 asking the university to respond to the claims these kind of animals are not allowed in classrooms.

Both times, the university pointed toward pointed to links on the school’s website. One is a link to the university’s definition of service animals and the other is for where those animals are permitted on campus.

The university’s policy says both service animals and therapy animals are allowed for students who have certain disabilities. The school has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on a list of common disabilities.

There is a difference of where these animals are allowed. Service animals have access to almost all the buildings on campus while therapy animals are only permitted in student housing on campus. Which, can serve as a problem for non-traditional veterans returning to school after deployments.

The validity of these animals is supported by material linked to the website by the school itself. In a paper titled “Accommodating Student Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Tips for Campus Faculty and Staff,” the authors call out the possibility for emotional support dogs to be part of a veteran’s integration into classroom life.

On page 6, the authors said, “…Disability Services professionals make the specific decisions related to whether a student is qualified to have a reduced course load, service animals (to help with PTSD stress reduction), access to specialized software…”

KSNT News posed the question to K-State, “(Veterans) say dogs trained to help them are not permitted even though PTSD is listed as a disability, service animals are allowed to help students with disabilities and the university’s own source material suggests service dogs may be an accommodation made for student veterans.”

The university’s division of communications and marketing said “We will not be able to provide an answer this afternoon, but we will work with our Student Access Center and try to have a response as soon as possible.”

However, Canine Companions for Independence shed light on why the university’s policies may not match up.

“Right now, the way the law is, emotional support dogs do not have access everywhere and assistance dogs do,” said Michelle Williams, the Northwest Public Relations Director for Canine Companions for Independence.

But a new study conducted but the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Canine Companions for Independence may change all of that.

According to Williams the company is helping the department run a study to see how emotional support dogs with certain skills can help veterans. Williams said these dogs are learning commands that can help create space around a veteran and alert them when they are about to enter a crowded room.

Estabrook said he did hear back from university officials about this issue. According to an email from Pat Bosco, the Dean of Student Life, university leaders are at a conference to learn more about having these animals on campus.

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