Education

NCSU reaches legal settlement with disabled student over her support animal, a cat

N.C. State University had denied a student’s request to keep her emotional support animal, a cat named Kifree, in student housing as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.
N.C. State University had denied a student’s request to keep her emotional support animal, a cat named Kifree, in student housing as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Courtesy of Legal Aid of North Carolina

N.C. State University has reached a legal settlement with a disabled student after initially denying her request to keep her support animal, a cat, in her residence hall.

The settlement was announced Wednesday by Legal Aid of North Carolina, which filed a federal discrimination complaint against NCSU on behalf of the student, Laura Auman. The complaint was filed last year with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging that the university violated the Fair Housing Act.

NCSU had denied Auman’s request to keep her emotional support animal, a cat named Kifree, in her dormitory room as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. At the time, the university cited the fact that it had no policy on emotional support animals, according to Legal Aid.

Under the settlement, NCSU agreed to provide Fair Housing Act training for its staff who deal with students seeking accommodations, according to the announcement by Legal Aid. The university will also publicize its policy on assistance animals, which allows students with disabilities to keep animals in university housing when the animals provide therapeutic benefits.

The university agreed to pay $3,000 to Auman as part of the settlement, according to an NCSU spokesman. Auman was not available for an interview Wednesday, a spokesman for Legal Aid said.

George Hausen, executive director of Legal Aid, said NCSU “is to be commended” for implementing a new campus Assistance Animal Policy.

“The Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid is committed to ensuring that students in university housing, just like all residents of North Carolina, are afforded the protections of the Fair Housing Act,” said Jack Holtzman, co-director of the project. “Those protections include making accommodations for students with disabilities who need emotional support animals in order to have an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of university housing.”

The HUD complaint was the second federal complaint made by Auman. Last year, she also took the issue to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Last month, the office found sufficient evidence that the university had violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill

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