KALAMAZOO (AP/CBS Detroit) A student is suing a Michigan university for the right to keep a guinea pig on campus for emotional support.

Kendra Velzen, who reportedly suffers from depression and a heart condition, says Grand Valley State University in western Michigan is violating federal housing rules. The 28-year-old from Grand Rapids says a guinea pig helps her cope with physical and emotional challenges.

The lawsuit says the Allendale school backed off a bit and let Velzen have a guinea pig while a complaint was pending
with the Michigan Civil Rights Department.

But her lawyer says that accommodation could change anytime. Stephen Dane says he wants the school policy declared
illegal so his client and other students can benefit from therapy animals in the dorms.

Cathy Klotz, executive director of Intermountain Therapy Animals, said there’s an important difference between therapy animals — which provide emotional support — and service animals, which are used for essential functions like sight or alerting their companion to an oncoming seizure.

Intermountain Therapy Animals has 350 regular therapy teams and 3,000 teams registered around the world who visit hospitals, schools and homes for therapeutic purposes. Of those 3,000 teams, 98 percent are dogs, a few are cats, and there’s “an occasional mini-horse,” Klotz said, but none are guinea pigs.

“You can bring them in (guinea pigs) to see patients or school classrooms, but as a service animal? I’ve never heard of it,” Klotz said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”

Grand Valley State spokeswoman Dottie Barnes  told MLive the student has been allowed to keep the guinea pig in her dorm since last year;  adding they had not been served with the lawsuit and would not comment further.

“The university’s statement that they gave permission is false,” said Dane, the girl’s attorney.

He added that no training is required for therapy or service animals under the Fair Housing Act, and there are no restrictions on the kind of animals allowed to serve.

“The Fair Housing Act is not limited to trained therapy animals or service animals, there are no restrictions under the Fair Housing Act as to the nature of the animal that provides support or otherwise to tenants. There is one or more court decisions that say there is no training required … for emotional support animals,” Dane said.

“There are a lot of people who just don’t understand what the Fair Housing Act requires, and it’s too bad.”

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (120)
  1. Mike says:

    Really??? What’s this world coming to? Back in the day when people had common sense, they would have put these fools in jail for wasting the courts time!

    1. Barry Soetoro says:

      Stop wasting your money on an overpriced substandard education by degenerates that know nothing and spend their time with nonsense.

      1. Garry Watton says:

        Especially a Michigan non eduction that will get you nowhere but in collection when you can’t get a job and have no money to pay the ridiculous amount they charge.

        1. sueinmi says:

          ..the other students (and parents) will really appreciate the tuition increase since the college will need a whole new department to monitor pet immunizations, etc…
          Go home…

          1. Nat says:

            Are you one of those overpaid useless teachers, staff or other government leech that makes their money off others money through taxes?

            If so, stop stealing our money.

    2. Tyrone says:

      Kendra Velzen will never be a productive member of society. Not only is no one going to hire anyone who needs a guinea pig with them to cope, but any company that does, will be sued by the their other employees for knowingly hiring an emotionally unstable person and thus putting all of the other employees at risk.

      Get used to the idea that your tax dollars will be supporting this person forever.

      1. BrunoS says:

        You can find a photo of her on her twitter account… man she looks like she is a head case…. more evidence that universities are way to flexible in who they let in. Frankly I would not be surprised to see her mug shot for going nuts and doing god knows what.

    3. Jae says:

      crazier is a 28 year old living in a dorm. Maybe the school should examine the mental state of why a 28 year old is living with 18 & 19 year olds.

      1. Southerngal says:

        I agree…you would think at her age she would be self supporting.

  2. Bud359 says:

    Tell the university she give up the guinea pig for a capybara

  3. pitter43 says:

    This is so stupid that she just has to be a liberal.



    2. Bill in Houston says:

      My first thought was, “Obama voter.”

    3. buzzcuts says:

      Its really funny when idiotic challenged people believe they are smart, like you!

  4. Dervrak says:

    They’ll take my Guinea Pig when they pry it out of my cold dead hands!

    When Guinea Pigs are outlawed, only outlaws will have Guinea Pigs!

    1. whraglyn says:

      LOL ! OMG Best In Show, Dervak! Two Thumbs Up!

    2. Slim Picnic says:

      Only one thing to do here. Occupy Grand Valley State University dorms. Set up tents! Poop on campus police cars! Collect money for beer and sex parties! Host a video games strike and play until they let this poor guinea pig keep this woman in the dorm!

    3. robertsgunshop says:

      Great one.

  5. FHAJD says:

    Stupid university. The law is very clear on this issue, and while you may not agree with it, that’s what it is. It really is black and white as far as Fair Housing Act law goes. The university’s lawyers should have known this, shame on them.

  6. Alex says:

    A person with problems or disabilities in which a support animal is deemed necessary by a doctor for a patient’s well-being shouldn’t even be questioned. My best friend is totally blind and her guide dog have been occasionally refused admission to public places until she informs the ignorant slobs that there is a $ 5,000 penalty for refusing a service animal into any public establishment with its owner. As long as the animal is properly cared for and clean, like any other beloved pet, what’s the problem? Why is this the business of the federal government anyway? Get out of our lives and leave others alone!

    1. Phillep Harding says:

      On the other hand…

      I had a neighbor who nearly completed a pharmacist course who decided she would much rather be a druggy. She knew the jargon and what symptoms to claim to get the drugs she wanted. (Total fakery.) She decided her pet dog should be a service animal, and got it listed, or whatever happens. Stupid yapper.

    2. Georgiasaraann says:

      You state there is a $5K penalty your friend threatens owners with and then say you want the government out of our lives? Where do you think the penalty comes from? That would be The Americans with Disabilities Act. Which has done nothing but make spoiled brats out of people who are living on our charity.

      1. Veritas says:

        And this person gets the prize for actually understanding the flawed logic of most people in society. Either we support government regulation and policy in every aspect of our lives, or we don’t. You can’t pick and choose based on what benefits you and disregard the policies that don’t. It’s like all the people at Tea Party rallies calling for cuts in federal spending, but demanding that their Social Security and Medicare benefits be left alone. It doesn’t work that way folks. (In all fairness, that perspective is just as idiotic as the Occupy protesters who call for the downfall of corporations, but take full advantage of the benefits these corporations provide.)

        1. Georgiasaraann says:

          Hold on there Veritas. I am a Tea Partier. We oppose government waste and do call for cuts in federal spending. However, SS benefits were earned by the recepients. Welfare, food stamps etc. were not. SS benefits have not bred the criminal class we now have as a result of entitlements. Tea Partiers and Occupiers are both demonstrators, but that is where the similarities end. We do not cause damage, deficate, rape, fight with police, etc. In fact, we clean up after ourselves. And your statement whereas we support government regulation and policy in every aspect of our lives or we don’t is also flawed. Tea partiers recognize you have to have some government fuctions, such as the military. But some functions, such as the Post office and Dept. of Education, can be better done by the free market. It is not an all or nothing thing.

    3. Shannon says:

      If you had read the entire article you would see there is a huge difference between a service animal and a support animal….She is suing the University…it is them that are denying her. Where do you get the Fed Govt from this story. She has every right to her pet. She just needs to find an apartment that allows pets.

      1. ROD says:

        Great observation. Get her own apartment. If she sues the school, she should be kicked out for harrassment.

  7. greg gowen says:

    Please provide this student with as much free contraception as she needs.

  8. freecheese says:

    Let me guess: She is seeking a liberal arts degree that will lead to a job as a welfare worker, woman’s studies or socioligy as a history teacher/coach. Thirty grand, tops !
    It doesn’t sound like she will EVER be ready for the REAL working world. She sounds VERY unstable, and I wouldn’t place her in a position that requires responsibility. She certainly wouldn’t qualify for a militar officer’s commision.

    1. Zimriel says:

      Not everybody can qualify for an officer’s commission. I can’t.

      But she should live off campus. Maybe bring in the guinea-rat now and then so the other girls (and boys) can coo about how cute it is.

      1. freecheese says:

        No. Most officer’s commisions require a degree in science or egineering degree. Liberal arts degrees MIGHT land a female for a Human Rights Officer job ar any other office job. But you can’t take your RODENT to OCS.

      2. Brigmaster says:

        But you could absolutely become President of the USA that requires neither qualifications or even a Birth Certificate

        1. mountainman says:

          HAHAHAHAHA… I almost spit my coffee on the screen! AWESOME. You made my day!

    2. Shannon says:

      Perfect candidate for a job with the TSA. They are all unstable and don’t do any real work.

    3. Veritas says:

      And based on your terrible grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure, you wouldn’t qualify for a commission either. This is coming from a guy with a degree in sociology who is making far more than $30K per year in a teaching position after working for 10 years in law enforcement. Or is that not a job in the REAL working world?

  9. grrr says:

    It’s not a service animal, it’s a rodent. Should another student who gets emotional support from a bison be allowed to keep that in a dorm? Dog’s are so frequently service animals due to their high level of trainability and obedience….a guinea pig is just going to escape, crawl into a vent and die. If you’re so emotionally unstable that your day depends on a rodent to make you happy, maybe college is too much for you. Go home to mommy and study online.

    1. ING says:

      Obviously, you are the World’s Leading Expert on cavies, since their definition of “escape” is to freeze. If you leave them on the floor in the morning, when you return they mighr have moved 6 feet from where you left hem

      1. ING says:

        “them”. Sorry for the typo

  10. Mark P says:

    It is nice to have pets, but emotional “need”?!! Give me a break. Time for her to break out the old “binky” and resume thumb-sucking for this young lady..

  11. Sker says:

    As a heterosexual guy who proudly enjoys the company of guinea pigs, I stand with this girl 100%, regardless of her political leanings. (Only mentioning politics because other commenters feel this is somehow relevant). You know how much room a guinea pig takes up, how much of a mess they leave, and how much noise they make? Essentially none. This girl might be lonely, how does her guinea pig bother you? Since she would be embarassed to admit her loneliness, she’s forced to cite depression and a heart condition. Either way, what difference does it make? The world is a hard, harsh place a lot of the time (due in large part to the type of people who have an issue with a guinea pig in a dorm room) and if people want something “nice” to help them through it, so what?

    1. Sam says:

      Not too embarrassed to hire another rodent, I mean lawyer, to represent her. I wonder how much in damages they’ll be seeking.

    2. Shannon says:

      This “girl” is 26 years old. The university has rules. It is their dorm. So if they allow her to have a pet they will have to allow everyone to have a pet. So should the university change its rules to allow just guinea pigs? What about pythons? They don’t take up much room. Neither do Yorkies. There are rules in life that we must abide by. Maybe I need my boyfriend to stay in my dorm for emotional support. Just because you like Guinea pigs is not a valid reason for your argumant. Everyone wants their own way these days and if they cant get it they sue.

    3. beagal says:

      Great comment!!
      Cavies are terrific. My 29-year-old son has had cavies as pets. It has done him good to focus on other’s needs outside himself. People should stop being so judgmental.

    4. Kathryn says:

      Sker – I totally agree with you. So, what’s the problem with having a guinea pig? The school is stupid to deny such a trivial thing. They don’t take up any room, they stay in a cage—SO WHAT? I think it’s the LIBERAL IDIOTS who are denying her the FREEDOM to own this pet.

      1. freedomforcavies! says:

        It is cruel to keep a guinea pig in a small cage just as it is to keep a rabbit in a small cage or a dog tied on a short chain all the time. They need more room than a cage, they should be taken out at least once a day to run around and exercise in addition to having a large living space. This woman is thinking only of her own selfish desire and not what is best for her guinea pigs.

    5. getsometherapy says:

      Guinea pigs should be kept in pairs so that means at least 8 -10 sq ft of space. That’s A LOT of space in a small dorm.
      Guinea pigs will kick bedding/urine/feces out of the cage and they can be messy. They are not smelly if the cages are properly maintained but most guinea pigs are not properly housed so maintenance is difficult.
      What if her roommate finds comfort in a cat or snake….don’t think the guinea pig will like that too much. :0
      What about other dorm mates who might have allergies?
      A dorm is not a zoo.

      1. SillyGirl says:

        I agree here. I keep both my Guinea Pigs in a 7 ft custom cage with two levels… not small and not clean. It must be cleaned daily and so must my small apartment. I can’t tell you how far from their “home” I have found litter, hay, and feces.

        Many people forget that life requires trade-offs. No one is saying that she can’t own the pig, she just needs to make other living arrangements so she can still go to school and keep the pig. Not everything is an entitlement.

  12. JanSilver says:

    No one is forcing her to live in the dorm. She can get off campus housing that allows pets. Also, if she is so emotionally crippled that she has to have a rodent with her (by the way, guinea pigs are a pain in the a#$, their cages smell and the go whoop-whoop loudly when the want attention), maybe she shouldn’t be at college where there is a lot of pressure and stress.

    1. ING says:

      Maybe she can stay right where she is, and Jan and the university dipsh!ts can get the professonal help they need.

      1. JanSilver says:

        You have a choice to stay on campus or not. When you are accepted to campus housing, you are provided with what is and what is not allowed in your dorm rooms. She is not forced to live in a dorm, there are other housing alternatives available to every student. Universities also have a department solely committed to students with permanent and temporary disabilities to accommodate them on campus.
        What this girl is a complete insult to those who struggle with true disabilities that require service animals, such as dogs for vision impaired, and those students who need special housing, such as first floor access and wheelchair accessibility for those with physical handicaps.

  13. bernieb says:

    I wish my roomie had a Guinea Pig, then I’d never have to go out for lunch !

  14. Beth says:

    It is the law and honestly that is what it comes down to. I have a friend that is in the military and when not active she is a truck driver. She suffers from ptsd and severe depression. Both the military and the trucking company are violating her rights by saying she can not have her dog. Evidently the military is above the law. She can have her dog on base but not with her in her barracks during down time. The dog is not allowed anywhere on base except where it is tied out. Its quite simple we all find comport in many ways. These people are finding ways of their own. They are not sinking in to drugs or alcohol which is a common role for people with depression. We should support them for taking the high road.

    1. that guy says:

      Look I fully understand PTSD, I have a degree in Psychology. But, since when do people have the RIGHT to a dog? Please reference which amendment in the Constitution guarantees your right to having your dog live with you in a place that you are not the owner of.

  15. caveat emptor says:

    If this girl is that mentally challenged, she should be in a cage and the rat set free.

  16. gpl says:

    Guinea pigs rule!

  17. LorieStores says:

    WHAT about the rights of her roomate? Guinea Pigs are smelly (no matter how often you change the beddding) and nocturnal. Very noisey at night. This is the reason we are getting rid of ours right now. Anyone want two males with cage FREE???

  18. Johnny says:

    Not everyone is strong enough for college…this one should consider leaving. How will they ever survive the work force???

  19. stoptouchingthatmabel says:

    I don’t think you are ready for the real world dear. I hope there are no bridges nearby.

  20. gg says:

    Wow, some of the things you people come up with to pick on, and not the actual issues. Especially the one picking on liberal arts degrees but can’t spell sociology right.
    Its a frickin’ guinea pig. A little overkill on the law suit, but it never should have come to this. It has already been proven that people lead less stressful lives if they have pets. Call it a service animal or whatever, if it helps her that’s all that matters. She doesn’t bring it to class, it sits in a cage in her room. And LorieStores, how long did you give the pigs a try…3 days?

    1. JoeStack says:

      Obviously she doesn’t need the DAMN pig that bad if she’s leaving it in the room RIGHT? You must be a “liberal arts major” since you’re “SO” offended. Service animals are trained and certified you can not do that with a guinea pig.

    2. TrshMnstr says:

      And the roommate who is allergic to guinea pigs gets to sue next.

  21. Unlisted says:

    The kid should become a guinea pig for the science department.

  22. Mike says:

    So a 200 mastiff is not a problem? Not as a seeing eye dog but emotional support. What about a camel? Can I bring my camel with me? We spit together. Ostrich? Rules are rules friggin live by them! This is NOT a service animal and it is an affront to all those who truly do need the exception of a service animal. Next thing you know she will want the free condoms and gerbils too!

  23. Jonathan says:

    They don’t want the pig, but they build foot baths!?!?

  24. Brigmaster says:

    Did you hear the one about the Vally Girl that in order to get into a restaurant tried to pass a Chihuahua off as a seeing eye dog

  25. LBR says:

    Now people can see exactly why renting property is such a pain. I own a building that is Pet-Free and was forced into court because of a very similar situation. The woman lied when she signed the papers. She moved in with a 125 lb dog that scared all the others that lived there. Then all of a sudden showed up with papers claiming that the dog was a “therapy dog”. The dog had no training… She claimed that she bought a book on e-Bay on how to do that. When the court ruled in her favor I sold the place and in a month it’s being torn down to make more parking spaces for the strip mall across the street.

  26. richmondtommy says:

    I think this case should be found in the University’s favor and she should be awarded the honor to pay all expenses by all parties. This stuff is just getting too dumb. WAH WAH WAH I WANT MY PIGGY, I WANT MY PIGGY.

  27. Herb says:

    What does the hamster do to provide stress reliief? Please don’t tell me. I don’t ned that mental inage haunting my dreams.

    1. Bill in Houston says:

      Ask Richard Gere!

  28. I love animals, but really! If she needs an animal fix, she can volunteer at a local animal shelter. Not only would she get her critter time, but studies show that volunteering helps depressed people recover.

  29. SturJen says:

    You know, they eat those things in South America…..The Guinea Pig, I mean.

  30. Templer8 says:

    Rules? Rules? I don’t need no stinkin’ rules. This soon to be an old maid and oh, so many more just won’t go along with the rules. Don’t like em? Sue. This attitude of I just want to do what I want to do and the hell with everyone else is surely another sign in the de-evloution of our society. Just as that Baldwin creep didn’t want to obey an order from a mere flight attendant, this persnickety prima donna doesn’t want to hear a discouraging word from the administration of a college that has been around much longer than this aging “student”. Sure, Baldwin, air travel is so much fun, while don’t we all “debate” flight attendants over the rules. Maybe the flight will take off in a couple of days after we all have our say. Admit it people, for this country, the fat lady is getting ready to sing.

  31. ff says:

    I ate guinea pig in Peru.


  32. josetoyou says:

    I a student doesn’t like the rules, find another school.

  33. josetoyou says:

    If a student doesn’t like the rules, find another school.

  34. Karl says:

    The real question here is did a Dr put in writing that she needed to have the rat with her?
    Everyone talking about the fair housing law has forgotten to look into that.
    If it is not deemed medically necessary then the law does not apply.

  35. Joe Burger says:

    Prospective employers will take note of this person and pass, pass, pass when it comes time to interview for a job.

  36. Kathryn says:

    All you people are RACIST against guinea pigs. Shame on you. People are louder, smell worse and are much more annoying than small animals.

  37. AC says:

    I had several rabbits in the dorm when I was in college. They tasted great.

  38. same15259 says:

    She attends the College .She does not Run the College .

    The G. Piggs were there when she agreed to attend College there .
    What’s next ? Certain Foods served at school depress her .
    This air head has huge “Other Problems ” as well .
    She Needs to be in a nursing Home with Soft walls .

  39. alan says:

    If the student is that fragile she needs a guinea pig to cope, she should be tossed from school. What the animal dies, she is liable to go off the deep end and take 20 students with her.

    1. JoeStack says:

      Hey there’s an idea! that would solve this problem real quick. i vote for Alan’s idea. No wasted time or money on going to court and the bonus? NO MORE Kendra! I don’t think mommy and daddy loved her enough as a child. We need to find a guinea pig assassin and make it look like an accident.

  40. josetoyou says:

    This lawsuit is nonsense, and I hope the court will agree and not even waste their time. If the student doesn’t like the school rules, find another school which will allow her pet in her room. Any respectable attorney would not bother with taking this case…

  41. whocares says:

    I love guinea pigs but this woman is being selfish.
    If she wants to keep pets she needs to move off campus and get some therapy so she can cope with stress a bit better.

  42. Danny says:

    Kendra sweety, if you must rely on guinea pigs for your emotional well being, you need more help than you realize.

    You know what? Your lawsuit is nothing more than a ploy to satisfy the “sense of entitlement” that you possess. Your lawsuit is frivolous and utterly stupid.

    Go back to your mommy. I don’t think an adult college is the place for someone that has to rely on a $25 pet for emotional stability.

  43. kobutsumalone says:

    The level of meanspiritedness here is troubling. I for one, support Kendra Velzen.

  44. janvones says:

    I wonder if her comfort pig would enjoy meeting my comfort cobra?

  45. sgtted says:

    What bunk. Grow up honey, the rest of aren’t here to conform to your every desire and wish.

  46. Kelvin says:

    Will school have to pay for guinea pig contraception to keep them from multiplying?

  47. Diego Roswell says:

    Sounds to me like a Jewpacabra.

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