A college student who sued her university last year for not allowing her to keep her pet guinea pig in her dorm will get $40,000.
Kendra Velzen petitioned Grand Valley State University to allow her to keep her guinea pig for “emotional support.” She suffers from severe depression and depends on a pacemaker.
Officials allowed her to keep her pet in the dormitory after she said it was prescribed to help her with her conditions. But Velzen and her lawyer saw they had a case when the approval came with stipulations, like where she could take the animal on campus. One of the rules said she could not take the guinea pig to class or to where food was served. These restrictions prompted her to sue the school for failing to provide reasonable accommodations for her disabilities under federal housing laws.
She reached an agreement with the school and will now receive $40,000.
The settlement reads, “The parties’ decision to enter into this agreement represents a compromise of disputed claims and creates the framework for the parties to move forward without the disruption and cost of litigation.”
GVSU said it never “acted wrongly or failed to act in any way with regard to Kendra Velzen.”
The case also brought attention to the difference between “therapy animals” and “service animals.”
The university said it will work with the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan to properly define the two terms and address assistance animals in school policy.
They also said if she chooses to stay in the dorms again, her situation will be accommodated.
“Should Kendra Velzen ever reapply for on-campus housing and make an accommodation request to live with a guinea pig or animal of similar size and nature, Grand Valley will grant said request,” they said.