When you hear the term “Service Animal” the picture that comes to most minds is that of a service dog used to help those with vision problems. What probably doesn’t come to mind, is a guinea pig, that’s right, the class pet you probably had in 5th grade, to aid in a student’s diagnoses of depression.

In 2011, Kendra Velzen, a Grand Valley State University student in Grand Rapids, MI petitioned the university to be allowed to keep her “service animal” in an animal-free living center.

The university’s policy is to only allow service dogs and fish on campus; however the student’s attorney said an accommodation should be made under the Fair Housing Act. Eventually her petition was allowed by the university and her guinea pig, Blanca, was able to stay in the dormitory. However, this was not good enough for Velzen, who wanted to be able to take Blanca to the cafeteria or her classrooms.

She filed suit later in the year against the university for “not providing reasonable accommodation for her disabilities under federal housing law”. After a year of legal battle Grand Valley settled with Velzen for $40,000 to prevent ongoing litigation. Grand Valley has maintained that it acted in the right but has since said it will work to alter the way it deals with these situations in the future.

So, I’ll put the question to you… Was Velzen in the right to declare her Guinea Pig a service animal that she needed with her at cafeterias and classes? Or should service animals be left to the trained dogs of the world?  Either way I know I’m going to go try my luck, and the university for $40,000 as well.