By: Matthew Dietz
On February 10, 2014, United States District Court Judge Beth Bloom ruled that Broward County School District violated Anthony Merchante’s rights, as a child with a disability, by denying his right to have a seizure alert animal accompany him at his elementary school.
Anthony’s mother, Monica, requested that the school allow Anthony to bring his seizure alert and protect dog to school. Because Anthony is non verbal and lives with cerebral palsy, Stevie, the service dog, is tethered to Anthony’s wheelchair and needs to be tethered and untethered to the wheelchair, and may need to urinate during the day. The school distict demanded that Stevie’s mother be the handler of the dog during the day, provide insurance for the dog, and require proof of vaccinations required of animals sold in pet stores.
In a lenthy decision, the Court found that a person with a disability has a right to choose an accommodation that will meet that persons needs:
The Court is also guided by the basic premise that while not every accommodation chosen by a disabled person is “reasonable,” a public entity is not permitted to survey the universe of possible accommodations or modifications and determine for the individual what, in its estimation, is the best or most “reasonable,” approach.
The Court also reaffirmed the importance of the pair bond between a person with a disability and his or her service animal. The Court found that to assist or monitor Anthony in using his service animal is a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 off the Rehabilitation Act, and the insurance and additional vaccinations were unlawful requirements. “In the same way a school would assist a non-disabled child to use the restroom, or assist a diabetic child with her insulin pump, or assist a physically disabled child employ her motorized wheelchair, or assist a visually disabled child deploy her white cane, or assist that same child with her seeing-eye dog – the accommodations here are reasonable.”
On Saturday, February 21, 2015, The Miami Herald published an article by Carol Marbin Miller about Anthony’s victory and some great pictures and a video of Anthony, Stevie, and Monica Alboniga.