IMG: Animals in School

The Melrose Public Schools is committed to providing a high quality educational program to all students in a safe and healthy environment. School principals, in consultation with the health services providers in each building, will use the Massachusetts Department of Public Health publication Guidelines for Animals in Schools or on School Grounds and review student health records to determine which animals may be allowed in a school building. No animal will be brought to school without prior permission of the principal.

Educational Program

The use of animals to achieve specific curriculum objectives may be allowed by the building principal provided student health and safety is not jeopardized and the individual requesting that the animal be brought to school is responsible for adhering to Guidelines for Animals in Schools or on School Grounds and any other conditions established by the principal to protect the health and well-being of students.

Student Health and Safety

Animals may cause an allergic reaction or otherwise impair the health and safety of students, so no animals may be brought to school or kept in a school, classroom, office, or common area that may negatively impact the well-being of any student. Animals that cause an allergic reaction or impair the health and safety of students will be removed from the school immediately.

Animals Prohibited from School

Any fur-bearing animal is susceptible to rabies, a serious and potentially fatal disease, and infected animals can transmit this disease to students and staff. Based on the Massachusetts Departments of Health and Education recommendations, the following animals are prohibited from schools:

  • Wild animals and domestic stray animals – Because of the high incidence of rabies in bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and other wild carnivores, these animals (alive or dead) are not permitted in school buildings.
  • Fur-bearing animals (dogs, cats, wolf-hybrids, ferrets, etc.) – These animals may pose a risk for transmitting rabies as well as parasites, fleas, and/or other diseases and may potentially inflict injuries.
  • Bats – Bats pose a high risk for transmitting rabies. Bat houses will not be installed on school grounds and bats will not be brought into school buildings.
  • Poisonous animals – Spiders, venomous insects, and poisonous snakes, reptiles and lizards are prohibited for safety reasons.

Service Animals (Guide or Assistance Animals)

The Committee does not permit discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including those who require the assistance of a service animal. The district will comply with state and federal laws concerning the rights of persons with guide or assistance animals and will permit such animals on school premises and on school transportation. Guide, hearing, and other service animals or law enforcement animals may be allowed in schools or on school grounds with proof of a current rabies vaccination.

For purposes of this policy, a service animal includes any animal that has been individually trained to do the work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.  Service animals are not pets. There are several kinds of service animals that assist individuals with disabilities and examples include, but are not limited to, animals that assist individuals who are blind or have severe sight impairments; alert individuals with hearing impairments to sounds; pull wheelchairs or carry and pick-up items for individuals with mobility impairments; and assist mobility-impaired individuals with balance.

The district will not assume or take custody or control of, or any responsibility for, any service animal. The owner or person having custody and control of the animal will be liable for any damage to persons, premises, property, or facilities caused by the service animal, including, but not limited to clean up and stain removal.

If, in the opinion of a principal or authorized designee, a service animal is not in the control of its handler, or if it is not housebroken, the service animal may be excluded from the school, program, or premises. The service animal can also be excluded if it presents a direct and immediate threat to others in the school as determined by the principal. The parent or guardian of the student having custody and control of the animal will be required to remove the service animal from district premises immediately.

If any student or staff member assigned to the classroom in which a service animal is permitted suffers an allergic reaction to the animal, the person having custody and control of the animal will be required to remove the animal to a different location designated by the building principal or designee and an alternate plan will be developed with appropriate district staff. Such plan could include the reassignment of the person having custody and control of the animal to a different classroom. If an individual on school transportation suffers an allergic reaction, an alternate plan will be developed collaboratively among appropriate school, district, transportation staff, and the parents/guardian of the student.

When a student will be accompanied by a service animal at school or in other district facilities on a regular basis, appropriate staff members, the student’s parent or guardian, the animal’s owner, and any other person who will have custody and control of the animal will be required to sign a document stating that they have read and understood the information above related to service animals.

The Superintendent or his/her designee will be responsible for developing procedures to accommodate a student’s use of an assistance animal in district facilities and on school transportation vehicles.


MSC first vote: 10/14/14
MSC second vote: 10/28/14