By Taylor Forrest
“First, Southwestern College is requiring that you no longer have your dog on campus…if you do not comply with this request by Monday, May 1st, you will be subject to the student conduct process.”
This was the closing of the letter that Casey Cargill, business administration freshman, received on Wednesday, April 19 after a series of meetings and correspondences that Cargill had with Dan Falk, dean of students, regarding the dog she currently has on campus.
Yet, Ike, the 10-month old standard poodle, is not Casey’s pet or companion—he is a service dog in training.
Cargill is a certified professional dog trainer for a non-profit organization that is based in Stafford, KS. The organization adopts dogs from canines from shelters and then trains them to be service dogs for those in need.
‘Training to Lead’ was started more than five years ago by Cargill and her parents after she said that they saw the need for more service dogs. Since then, ‘Training to Lead’ has trained and placed more than 30 service dogs across the country. The organization has four main employees, but also has a branch in Stafford High School that allows students to take a class in which they get to train dogs for credit.
“They train the dogs at school and get to take them home each night,” said Cargill. “And once the student has finished training their dog, they get to go with us to give it to the individual that is receiving the dog.”
Cargill, who has more than 400 hundred hours of professional service dog training experience, brought Ike to campus on Sunday, March 26 and sent both Falk and Sarah Hallinan, director of residence life, a courtesy email the same day notifying them about the dog coming to campus.
“They responded to my email by saying that Ike wasn’t allowed on campus because they are exempt from Kansas statutes because we are a private institution,” said Cargill.
Although, Cargill said that this is simply not true, citing that Kansas State Statute 39-1109 recognizes service dogs in training as having the same rights as full-fledged service dogs if they are with a professional trainer or handler.
“He has the right to go anywhere with me besides churches and sterile environments,” said Cargill. “Southwestern accepts FASFA money, which is federal funding. Therefore, they have to follow the rules of the Kansas State Statue and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).”
Cargill also contacted her professors and asked whether Ike could accompany her to clas
s so that he would have more exposure to crowded areas. Jackson Lashier, assistant professor of religion, was one of the professors that Cargill spoke with about bringing the service dog in training to class.
“Casey was very respectful. She asked for permission, and I gave it to her and she always said that if he was ever a problem, she would just slip out of the room,” said Lashier. “Honestly Casey sits in the second row at the very end closest to the door and I never even know the dog is there. I’ve never even heard or seen it. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what kind of dog it is, so he’s clearly not disruptive at all.”
Although, according to the letter that Falk gave to Cargill, Southwestern College said they couldn’t find anything in Kansas State Statutes that allowed for the dog to be on campus. The college is demanding that Cargill remove Ike before Monday, May 1st and stated in their letter that one of the consequences that Cargill could face if she fails to comply is being expelled from the dorm rooms.
“If they kick me out of housing, I will drive down to Winfield police station and file a police report saying that Southwestern has discriminated against me because he is a service dog in training,” said Cargill. “And I don’t want to do that, I don’t want there to be a lawsuit, but I feel very strongly about this issue and feel that this outdated rule on campus needs to be changed.”
Cargill said that she does not take this personally, but she just feels very passionately about service dogs and service dogs in training to be allowed to go everywhere that they are legally protected to do.
“It’s a really impactful thing that we do and we help a lot of people and I just really, really like the service aspect of it.”
The dean of students was contacted for comment on this story three times by email and twice by phone, but these formal outreaches went unanswered.
Taylor Forrest is a senior majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: for clarification, Dan Falk, dean of students, originally agreed to comment on this story on Friday, April 21, but missed the appointment. He then failed to respond to numerous emails and phone calls spanning from Friday, April 21 through Monday, April 24.