WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 22, 2010) – Responding to a recent news story about a Virginia school’s refusal to allow a child with epilepsy and autism to bring a service animal to school, the Epilepsy Foundation affirms the right of anyone with epilepsy who relies upon a trained seizure dog to bring the service animal to any place of public accommodation.
“Some people with epilepsy have found that trained seizure dogs help them with seizure detection, advance warning and securing speedy assistance when a seizure occurs. Dogs can be trained as service animals for people with seizures, and the law protects a person’s right to use that animal in any public place. Schools should also allow the use of service animals, so long as health precautions are met, and the animal doesn’t fundamentally alter or disrupt the school’s program or activities,” said Sandy Finucane, Interim CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation.
A trained service dog can be taught to stay with a person throughout a seizure to help protect against injury; and, by barking or other signals, a service dog can alert others to come to the person’s aid.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a number of protections for people with epilepsy and other disabilities who may need the help of service animals in public places. According to new regulations implementing the law, and due to go into effect on March 15, 2011, A "service animal" is a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, or a dog trained to perform tasks that lessen the effects of a disability.
“The ADA and new Justice Department regulations will help clarify the right to use trained service animals in places of public accommodation. As more experience is gained with the use seizure dogs for children with epilepsy, and as people become more educated about their rights, we should see also expect more seizure dogs in our schools,” Finucane added.
The Foundation urges anyone who has been unfairly discriminated against because of epilepsy or chronic seizures to contact its Jeanne A. Carpenter Epilepsy Legal Defense Fund for legal information and legal assistance. For more details, visit www.epilepsyfoundation.org/epilepsylegal.