An Arkansas family claims their son’s school district is forcing them to fork over hefty handling fees for their 7-year-old son’s service dog.
Zachary Sorrell’s 2-year-old golden retriever Majesty is capable of sensing when he might have a seizure. Zachary suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, but he is not old enough to “handle” Majesty himself. Handling means "simply holding her leash and using one-word commands," his other Michelle Sorrells told FoxNews.com.
His elementary school refuses to provide a staff member to handle the dog, so the Sorrell’s have to spend $125 a week for a private adult handler.
The Sorrell’s filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which is now investigating the Cabot School District.
"We are not providing a handler for any service animals per district policy and it is consistently applied across the district,” Cabot Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman told Fox News in an email.
"The district made the decision not to provide a handler for the animal based on ADA guidelines and district policy ... The family made the decision to provide the handler because they wanted the service animal with the student,” he said.
He cited ADA guidelines that say "Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal."
The Disability Rights Center of Arkansas is representing the Sorrell family.
"The school is not being asked to feed, bath or walk the dog, as in how we typically take care of animals," said the group’s executive director, Tom Masseau. "What they're being asked to do is hold the leash and give the dog two or three simple commands to assist the boy in his daily activities at school."
Zachary’s mother says Majesty is a critical part of Zachary’s health. The dog is specifically trained to work with epileptic patients.
"Majesty has allowed Zachary to completely come off all his seizure medication because she alerts to his seizures ahead of time," she said. "We're solely reliant on her for seizure alert and this becomes a life threatening situation if she’s not allowed to attend."
Superintendent Thurman argues that the dog isn’t necessary for the boy to attend school.
"The most important aspect of this entire issue is the fact that the child can be provided with an education with or without the service animal," he wrote. "We have several students that deal with much the same medical issue and we provide a registered nurse in every school to support the health needs of all students."
Image Credit: Pawsitivity Service Dogs