University dog ban halts dream of vet study
By KELLY BURNS - The Dominion Post | Saturday, 21 June 2008
KELLY BURNS/The Dominion Post
Melanie Donnie's dream of becoming a vet, despite a brain injury suffered in a car crash, has been dealt a blow because the dog trained to curb her panic attacks is not welcome at Massey University.
Rica, a two-year-old German shepherd, is by her side when she visits supermarkets, banks, book stores and council buildings.
But when Ms Donne asked for permission for her dog to accompany her to university classes in Palmerston North next year she was declined. Rica was not a recognised
"They are taking away my education, I feel discriminated against," she said. "Massey are saying no, when everyone else has said yes."
Rica is not a registered disability dog under law despite passing obedience courses and being trained by Ms Donne.
Rica provides emotional and physical support, and wears a cape holding instructions on what to do if her owner has a disabling panic attack.
"So if I can't speak, she can speak for me and she has been trained to fetch a phone for me. But she can also pre-empt a panic attack by picking up on any signs."
Ms Donne said that last year she began a chemistry course at Massey as a prerequisite for the vet degree, but twice had panic attacks and ambulances had to be called.
Now she does the course extramurally, but says Rica is vital if she is to return to campus.
"I know it is a real dream and brain damage might not let me do it, but I won't know till I try."
In 1997 Ms Donne's car crashed over a cliff in Taranaki and she was trapped in the wreckage with head and neck injuries.
She was dragged to safety by her dog Nikki, also a German shepherd, who she says saved her life.
Nikki later died of bone cancer and Ms Donne set up the Kotuku Foundation to train dogs for people with neurological disabilities and to provide free or low-cost vet treatment for extraordinary pets - in Nikki's memory.
Massey spokesman James Gardiner said dogs were not allowed on campus apart from those registered with recognised disability services and those brought in for treatment at the Vet Teaching Hospital.
The university was not unsympathetic to Ms Donne and had hoped to set up a meeting, but was told she would not attend if she could not bring her dog. Mr Gardiner said the meeting could now be arranged off-campus.
Bless the Bullys