Trials & Litigation

Appeals court OKs former law student's suit over claimed Drake U hostility to service-dog training

A former law student has gotten a green light from an Iowa appeals court to proceed with her suit against Drake University over the law school’s alleged hostility toward the service dogs in she brought to classes between 2006 and 2009.

Under state law, those who use service and therapy dogs and those who train them are permitted to bring the animals to places where pets are not allowed. However, Nicole Shumate, who is now a Des Moines-based trainer of service dogs for Paws & Effect, alleged in a 2011 lawsuit that law school officials tried to prevent her from bringing service dogs she was training to class when she was a law student, the Des Moines Register reports.

Last year, the case was dismissed by a Polk County District Court Judge. But the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that the case should proceed.

The law school argued that lawmakers never intended to authorize trainers to bring service dogs to classes and said the remedy for any violation should be a misdemeanor citation, not a civil suit.

But “as Shumate argues, even if the prosecutor decides to pursue a simple misdemeanor, the maximum fine of $625 … would not serve as much of a deterrent to an institution like Drake University,” the appeals court said in its opinion. “A civil lawsuit, with the possibility of injunctive relief of damages, provides a more realistic protection.”

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