LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A former Louisiana college student says she was forced to drop out of school after her service dog, Cookie, was denied access to the UL-Lafayette campus after a recent classroom incident.
Alexandra Dondeville, who was a freshman majoring in psychology and liberal arts, is now living with a family member and trying to figure out the next steps in her life that will include Cookie.
“I can’t be on campus without my service dog,” Dondeville said. “I need her to survive every day to go through life. I can’t function without her at this time, and as soon as she wasn’t allowed on campus anymore, that basically said, I can’t go to class. I can’t stay in my own dorm. I had to pick up my entire life and leave it.”
She says an alleged incident with Cookie in her biology classroom derailed her college career. Dondeville’s biology professor claimed Cookie bit him during class, according to Nexstar’s KLFY, but she said that’s not what happened. Dondeville remembered the professor stepping on Cookie’s head, and Cookie yelping in pain, but there was never any bite.
“Alex has some special needs,” said Suzanne Gainer, Dondeville’s mother. “She’s dyslexic, she has ADHD, you know, so it’s scary for a parent, and it’s incredibly upsetting to know that we put her in their arms and they just wronged her so badly without really a full explanation.”
A petition aimed at bringing Dondeville and Cookie back on campus and back to class has gained over one thousand signatures.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are allowed to enter all public spaces that a human would be allowed to enter, and it’s illegal for a business to deny them access. Interfering with the work of a service animal is a class A misdemeanor and requesting that the service animal leave the premises is legal only if the animal is not behaving well.
UL Lafayette Public Information Officer Eric Maron responded to KLFY’s request for comment on the incident with the following statement:
“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is dedicated to creating a campus culture that is safe and accessible for all students, faculty and staff members. The University allows trained service and emotional support animals on campus to assist individuals who may need them. The University’s Animal Policy, which was adopted in 2019, and applicable laws provide guidelines that both the animals and their handlers must follow. The policy requires that:
• Service and emotional support animals be personally supervised by the handler, and the handler must retain full control of the animal at all times while on University property;
• No service or emotional support animals disrupt or interfere with University activities, including teaching, research or service; and
• If improper behavior happens more than once, the handler may be prohibited from bringing the animal onto University property.
If a service or emotional support animal is prohibited from campus, the University encourages students to contact the Office of Disability Services to determine alternative reasonable accommodations.”