Assembly Approves Bill To Allow Service Animals To Accompany School Children

TRENTON – The General Assembly has approved legislation to allow students with special needs to bring service animals to school.

The bill (A-1718) would allow a student classified as eligible for special education programs and services for autism or other developmental disability to bring a service animal in school buildings, including the classroom, and on school grounds. The bill does not require the school to provide the service animal.

“All students regardless of disability deserve the best educational tools available to prosper academically,” said Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D- Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland). “Allowing a student with autism or other developmental disability to bring a service animal to school will enhance the learning process and help the student reach his or her full potential.”

“Service animals can be trained to be a calming influence for students with autism or other developmental disabilities by providing a connection to the familiar in unfamiliar surroundings,” said Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex and Union). “This is especially important in a school setting, where an environment conducive to learning is key for students to succeed.”

Under the bill, a school official may inquire about the necessity of the service animal and the tasks the service animal will perform, if the information is not readily apparent.

A school official may require certification from a veterinarian that the service animal has been properly vaccinated, and documentation that a license has been obtained for the service animal, if one is required by the municipality where the student resides. The bill stipulates that the school is not responsible for the care or supervision of the service animal, but does require the school to make reasonable accommodations for its care and feeding.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Assembly. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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