Student Newspaper Story Leads to Therapy Dog’s Removal from U. of Rhode Island Residence Hall

A feel-good report in the University of Rhode Island student newspaper about a longtime housekeeper and his beloved therapy dog has led to the dog’s removal from campus. Warning: Canine lovers may be saddened or enraged at this tale’s sequence of events.

First, the dog had his day. The Good 5 Cent Cigar at URI ran a piece this past Thursday focused on the young black and white Husky, named Ivy. In recent months, Ivy has become a high-profile, popular part of a campus residence hall. She is brought to the dorm each morning by her owner and URI janitor Mike LaPolice. Along with pale blue eyes, Ivy boasts a nationally-recognized therapy dog certification and, according to LaPolice, “she genuinely cares about people and wants to make sure they’re OK.”

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Officials in URI’s Department of Housing and Residential Life (HRL) previously expressed concerns about the pup’s presence on campus, but they had been silent for the past six months or so. In the meantime, Ivy has been busy posing for pictures with excited students, accepting holiday greeting cards and even healing broken hearts.

In respect to the latter, a URI student told Cigar news reporter Eliza Radeka, “In September, a relationship that I was in came to an end and hit me pretty hard with the feels. Ivy jumped up on the couch and laid down next to me with her head on my chest because she could sense that I was upset.”

Cut to the present. Some individuals are now upset with HRL. Almost immediately after the Cigar’s Ivy piece was published, residence life staffers swooped in, demanding LaPolice take the dog home immediately and never bring her back to campus. It appears the Husky’s sudden burst of publicity renewed the department’s removal efforts.

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As Cigar editor-in-chief Allison Farrelly tells me, “I was in class when I received a text that Mike LaPolice was in our office with Ivy, requesting extra copies of the paper so he could share. I heard glowing accounts from many of my staff members who saw Mike exclaiming over how great the article was and how touched he was. My heart sank when the texts changed to, ‘Ivy’s getting kicked off campus, HRL is mad about the article.'”

LaPolice explained to Radeka in a follow-up piece: “Nobody will tell me who has a problem with Ivy. All of the HRL staff that I’ve talked to keep referring to some person who doesn’t like her being here, but I don’t know who that is.”

In the exclusive Q&A below, Farrelly shares more about her reaction to what she calls “Ivy’s expulsion” and discusses whether she is having any second thoughts about running the piece — given its surprisingly dog-unfriendly fallout.

Allison Farrelly is a journalism major at URI and EIC of The Good Five Cent Cigar.

Allison Farrelly is a journalism major at URI.

What do you think about the school’s reaction to the article?

Of course I’m shocked and saddened that Ivy was sent home as a result of our article, but I’m trying to take the high road and not place blame on the school right now because the decision to remove the dog was made singularly by the Department of Housing and Residential Life (HRL). After we printed the first article, my staff and I had been approached by faculty and staff from all different areas of campus who liked the article and knew Ivy, and they were as shocked as we were to learn the outcome: Ivy’s expulsion, for lack of a better word.

Because HRL would not comment before we printed, I don’t know their side of it, and so HRL is looking a lot like the bad guy to me, my staff and the university community. It’s tough in instances like these to not let your emotions be blinded by a kind janitor and a cute Husky puppy, and to remind yourself that there is another side to the story.  It took me a few deep breaths to get here, but I’m trying to be a good journalist, not a dog lover, and not to get too emotionally invested until HRL will comment. Hopefully they have a good reason for removing her, but at this time I’m definitely having difficulty seeing what that would be.

“It’s tough in instances like these to not let your emotions be blinded by a kind janitor and a cute Husky puppy, and to remind yourself that there is another side to the story.  It took me a few deep breaths to get here, but I’m trying to be a good journalist, not a dog lover, and not to get too emotionally invested.”

Do you have any regrets about publishing the piece?

I’ll regret running the piece if nothing comes from this situation. My hope is that our community will use the articles as a platform to communicate and instigate change, but I genuinely don’t know if that is possible. I hope so, because my staff and I are shocked and heartbroken. Many of them know and love Ivy.

I’m trying not to regret running this piece, because we never could have anticipated this outcome. I feel sick about it though, that we could have played a hand in negatively impacting not just this man’s life, but the lives of all the students Ivy touched. It still doesn’t make sense to me that HRL could have reacted so strongly to our article, but I don’t feel defeated yet because I don’t think we’ve done everything we can to right this. I told my staff this, but I think there is a good chance if the student body gets behind our reporting, we can right this.

Currently, all we can do is keep writing objectively about what happened, sharing the stories on social media and giving voice to the people impacted. Until we know all the details of what happened, I’m trying to lead by example and not project emotions. But I’m human, and I’m confused and sad.

Comments
12 Responses to “Student Newspaper Story Leads to Therapy Dog’s Removal from U. of Rhode Island Residence Hall”
  1. Linda Ayala says:

    Allison, thank you for your excellent article! I too am very saddened by this turn of events…I wish that when things like this happen a decision would be made by the consensus of the majority rather than by one disgruntled person. It kind of reminds me of school when the whole class loses out on a fun activity because one person was out of line, which is how it’s handled by some teachers! I am so impressed by your level headed, mature response. Our world needs the voice of reason and you have it in spades! I have no doubt that you will have great success in the future. I hope the decision is repealed!

  2. lown says:

    As long as the dog actually is a certified therapy dog(which includes being up to date on all vaccinations), I really don’t see what reason they could have to expel Ivy. If someone in the residence is allergic they could simply just limit Ivy to specific common areas. My dog is a therapy dog and we visit children IN the hospital. You should see how it affects the children, the staff, and the parents.

    • Jared says:

      This doesn’t sound a therapy dog, which isn’t permitted to go to the handler’s job for insurance purposes. If it’s a service dog, and there is a distinction, that’s a different story. People like to label a dog in this situation as a “therapy dog” when it’s actually a dog that provides therapy — again there is a distinction. What you do with your hospital visits is have a therapy dog. It sounds as if the school has a problem with an unregistered dog that provides therapy.

  3. Annonee Mous says:

    Yet they’re bringing in therapy dogs on the 28th for exams. Did anyone check with the dog-hater in HRL, since clearly this bitter individual holds all the power.

  4. Thinker says:

    The issue here is that URI is home to many students and many different people. Not everyone is so inclined to have a dog around common areas. In example, there are some cultures that consider dogs dirty and think that is unsanitary for a dog to be around when people are eating. other folks simply don’t allow a dog to share their bed. others consider it gross to be covered in dog hair. How do I know? I am one of those people. No, I don’t hate dogs. No, I was not the one who wanted the dog’s removal–I am not from URI or remotely close to it. However, I don’t like to eat when a dog is around because dogs smell. Even when fully clean, they smell and I don’t like it. I don’t like to sit in common areas and be covered in dog fur–it’s gross. SO, if you like dogs and everything that comes with it, go get one, but do not expect the entire universe to be as joyful as you are.

    • Saakashvili says:

      To “thinker” clearly you are not a thinker…your a nob. If you dont want eat food near a dog then dont. Sit somewhere else. I dont like the smell of heavy perfume or cigarettes so I avoid someone that to me stinks to high heaven. And your not going to get covered in dog hair just because your in a common area..honestly you have the common sense of a house plant so please do yourself a favor and dont post anymore comments.

    • lown says:

      I disagree with Saakashvili, I think you make a valid point. I disagree that a freshly bathed and dried dog will always smell, but a therapy dog used outside of a hospital setting isn’t required to bathe before every visit so I’m sure some people may find regular dog odor offensive just like a certain cologne or perfume. However, with the amount of proven benefits therapy dogs provide, I don’t see why they couldn’t just limit the dog to a few of the common areas. Every University I’ve been in had many different lounges, why not make a few of them off limits to Ivy and then everyone would be happy? There’s a solution here to keep Ivy and appease those that aren’t fond of her, the University just needs to sit down for 15 minutes and figure it out

  5. URI Alum in CA says:

    If Ivy Is a true therapy dog (certification and all) then what URI is doing would be illegal and in violation of The Americans with Disabilities Act. Ivy’s owner, Mike, could sue the pants off URI and I kind of hope he does. Go Rams.

    • lown says:

      Common misconception, Therapy dogs are not the same as Service dogs. If Ivy was a Service dog you would be absolutely correct. However,a therapy dog is just one that goes through rigorous behaviour testing to make sure that it can handle all kinds of situations and still behave well. My dog is a therapy dog and for example I’m not allowed to take her into a restaurant or on public transportation like a Service dog is allowed to.

  6. Dani says:

    If Ivy is a certified Therapy Dog, he has every right to bring her to his workplace. This is a national law, and the University has no right to ‘expel her’. This is a violation of Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace laws, and is considered disability discrimination. He should confront the University about this.

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  1. […] Student Newspaper Story Leads to Therapy Dog's Removal from U. of Rhode … A feel-good report in the University of Rhode Island student newspaper about a longtime housekeeper and his beloved therapy dog has led to the dog's removal from campus. Warning: Canine lovers may be saddened or enraged at this tale's sequence of … Read more on College Media Matters […]



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