HUD's charge stems from complaints that were filed by a Kent State University student and her husband

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KENT -- Kent State University and four of its employees have been charged with housing discrimination for refusing to allow a student with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal in her campus apartment, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Tuesday.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such an accommodation, including refusing to grant waivers to "no-pet" policies for persons who use assistance or support animals, according to HUD.

HUD's charge stems from complaints that were filed by a Kent State University student and her husband and Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA) Inc., a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Akron. The student and her husband lived in university-owned and operated housing that is set aside for upperclassmen and their families. A university psychologist treating the student documented her disabilities and wrote a letter stating that the best way for the student to cope with her disabilities was having a support animal. The student subsequently obtained a dog and submitted a reasonable accommodation request to the university seeking a waiver to the apartment complex's "no pets" rule.

Tuesday afternoon, Kent State released a statement:

"Kent State University is aware of the charges stemming from claims made several years ago. Helping our students succeed remains a top priority, and we look forward to discussing the facts of this case at the appropriate time."

In her complaint, the student alleged that the university offered her academic accommodations, which she did not need, but denied her request to keep her support animal. As a result of the denial, the student and her husband were forced to move to an apartment the university did not own. Shortly after the move, the student and her husband contacted FHAA.

HUD's charge will be heard by a United States administrative law judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, damages may be awarded to the woman and her husband for the harm caused them.

"Many people with disabilities rely on therapy animals to enhance their quality of life," said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. "The Fair Housing Act protects their right to a service animal, and HUD is committed to taking action whenever the nation's fair housing laws are violated."

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