Grand Valley State University, a large public school in western Michigan, has been justly renowned as an NCAA Division II football powerhouse. Now, though, Grand Valley State will also be known as the school that settled for $40,000 after a student sued because she was banned from carrying around a pet guinea pig.
The student, 28-year-old Kendra Velzen, suffers from chronic depression and has a pacemaker, as MLive.com reports. According to her lawyer, the guinea pig supplies “emotional support and attachment (reducing symptoms of depression), and physiological and psychological benefits.”
In 2011, Velzen sought permission from GVSU officials to keep a guinea pig in her dorm room.
On the one hand, the dormitory policy did not allow pets. On the other, notes the Daily Mail, Velzen claimed that some professional with the authority to prescribe a guinea pig had prescribed ownership of the animal to alleviate her conditions.
Administrators at Grand Valley State had agreed to allow Velzen to keep a guinea pig on campus, but not without certain conditions. For example, they forbade her from taking the rodent anywhere food was served, or to class.
Velzen considered these stipulations unfairly burdensome. According to MLive, her lawsuit maintained that her pet guinea pig “provides her with emotional support and attachment (reducing symptoms of depression), and physiological and psychological benefits.”
The suit alleged that GVSU failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities, in violation of federal housing laws.
Under the terms of the $40,000 settlement, Grand Valley State rejected all claims that either the school or school officials “acted wrongly or failed to act in any way with regard to Kendra Velzen.”
At the same time, reports MLive, the school declared: “Should Kendra Velzen ever reapply for on-campus housing and make an accommodation request to live with a guinea pig or animal of similar size and nature, Grand Valley will grant said request.”
GVSU also agreed to collaborate with the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan to create a policy for the accommodation of assistance animals in on-campus housing facilities.