Sorority Sisters Go to Court Over Service Dog in Chi Omega House

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
An Ohio judge allows a Chi Omega sorority sister to keep her service dog, despite another sister’s claims of allergy problems caused by dander.

Madeleine Entine is a sophomore at The Ohio State University and a sister in the Chi Omega Sorority. She and her service dog Cory lived in the Chi Omega house. Cory helps Madeleine when she suffers severe panic attacks, which occur on a near-daily basis. When she has a panic attack, her breathing is restricted, she hyperventilates and even is immobile because her muscles lock up and prevent her from walking. Cory aids her by climbing on her stomach to give her pressure. It allows her breathing to be restored and she can again move. Additionally, his presence helps Madeliene to suffer from fewer attacks.

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Freshmen and sophomores at Ohio State must either live in on-campus housing or Greek housing. Madeleine is the chapter’s vice president, so she lives in the sorority house. Earlier in the school year, another sister living in the house complained about Cory because she was allergic to dogs. According to court documents, the other sister’s asthma is aggravated and that causes Crohn’s disease flares. Because other sisters regularly play with Cory, it’s not easy to stay away from hair.

The matter wasn’t able to be settled between the sisters so the school’s Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator made a decision. Scott Lissner said that over time, the dog dander the other sister was exposed to would make the house untenable and unsafe for her. He also looked at who signed the lease to live in the house first, and it was the other sister. Based on this, Madeleine either had to move out or stay without Cory.

But she didn’t believe either option was legal under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and tried to see if she could make it work at the house, giving Cory specific parameters to protect the other sister. That didn’t go over so well, however, as OSU said that it wasn’t feasible, and they offered assistance from the University for alternate housing arrangements but Madeleine declined, saying as Vice President of the chapter she had to live in the house.

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And then she took them to court. She used specific ADA terminology that said allergies and fear of dogs were not valid reasons for the refusal of service dogs and it’s not legal to require her to leave. OSU says that according to the law, reasonable accommodations can be made for Madeleine (alternate housing) but there is no way to accommodate both students’ issues in the house.

The case went before US District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, who issued a preliminary injunction that allowed Madeleine and Cory to stay in the sorority house until there is a final verdict about the case. He based that decision on the fact that Lissner did not confirm that it was even Cory who caused the other sister’s problems, and that more investigation needed to be done. It is not a permanent injunction against the school, as both students do qualify for protection under the ADA.

Talk about how awkward those sister meetings are going to be now.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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