72°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

New Legislation Sparked by UMB Professor

On Valentine’s Day 2000, UMB police entered Jan Raymondi’s Wheatley Hall office and changed her life. Raymondi, a 13-year veteran of the university’s Biology Department and puppy trainer for the disabled, was told that she could no longer bring her dog to work with her. Instead of quietly complying, Raymondi set out for change. She wrote and passed state legislation allowing people who raise or train service dogs to have the same rights as the disabled.

“I wanted to do something for the community and I love dogs,” said Raymondi, who has been training assistance dogs for the disabled for six years.

Raymondi volunteers with Canine Companions for Indepence, or CCI, a non-profit organization that trains dogs for the disabled. Founded in 1975, CCI provides service dogs to those who need them at almost no cost, despite the fact that they receive no government aid. CCI is funded by private contributors and relies on volunteers like Raymondi to train the dogs.

Assistance dogs need about a year of training before they are ready to join their disabled owners. Raymondi says one of the most important parts of this training is socialization, which gets the dog used to being in public places, including a work environment. Barbara Merandi, Coordinator of Reading and Interpreting Services at UMB, agrees.

“They do need the socialization,” Merandi said, adding that, “they need to be exposed to wherever the user is going to be most.”

Indeed, some of the dog owners work in offices, like Raymondi’s, where the dog has to sit quietly under a desk all day. It is important for the dog to get used to that kind of environment, which is what Raymondi’s dog, Ringo, was doing that Valentine’s Day nearly three years ago.

“Nobody ever complained…and the dog never, ever barked,” Raymondi said of Ringo, noting that she is still not sure who called the campus police that day.

Despite Ringo’s good behavior and protests from Raymondi, UMB ruled that she could not bring any more puppies to work. According to an article from The Patriot Ledger, UMass policy prohibited pets in campus buildings unless they were assisting the disabled. Raymondi was surprised at the decision, especially from an institution that supposedly takes pride in its diversity.

“I was disappointed in their decision,” Raymondi said, though adding, “but it wasn’t a battle against UMass.”

Despite the new law, however, CCI maintains that certain dogs should not be in public, saying in its November newsletter that “puppies under five months should not be brought in public places.” Judy Tucker, a spokeswoman for CCI, said that bringing puppies younger than five months into public places could overwhelm them and should not be done, “law passed or no law.” Tucker also stressed that Raymondi passed the law as an individual, not as a representative for CCI, noting that it is illegal for non-profit organizations to lobby for legislation that will benefit them.

Tucker said that as a puppy raiser, the new law wouldn’t change much for her, as she does not bring her dog to her office. But the law will change things for some of the trainers, especially the newer volunteers.

“It could give them confidence to say there currently is a law in place,” Tucker said.

Despite her efforts over the last two years, Raymondi still doesn’t seem to realize the magnitude of her actions. Thousands of bills were presented to Acting Gov. Jane Swift this year and only 100 were passed into law.

“One of them was mine,” Raymondi said.

Raymondi wrote the legislation and contacted Michael Morrissey, her senator, who presented it and took it through the lengthy process of passing laws.

“I still don’t understand the legislative process,” she said. Whether or not she understands how it got to Swift’s desk, the governor signed the legislation into law on October first.

“Jan did a very brave thing,” Tucker said. “She worked hard and is very proud of it.”

“I want everyone to understand how important this is,” Raymondi said. “Us abled people take so much for granted.”