TRENTON, N.J. — State legislation that officially allows service animals on school buses was signed into law last week.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie approved A-3690, which adds school buses to the list of school locations in which students’ service animals are allowed.
Although state law didn’t previously specify it, service animals have technically already been permitted on school buses in New Jersey. A state Department of Education bulletin on bus driver and aide training requirements, citing federal laws, says that “students classified with special needs have a right to bring their service dogs to school with them and also on the school bus.”
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Education confirmed that service animals were already allowed on school buses in the state. The goal of the bill, he said, was to codify that in state statute.
The law permits a school official to inquire about whether the service animal is required due to a disability and what task the animal has been trained to perform — unless the disability and the animal's purpose are readily apparent.
A school official may require:
• Certification from a veterinarian that the service animal is properly vaccinated and does not have a contagious disease that may harm students or staff.
• Documentation proving that the student has obtained any license that his or her municipality requires for the service animal.
The law also requires the animal to be under a handler's control via a leash, tether or other suitable means at all times.
State Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, a sponsor of the legislation, said that it “will ensure that New Jersey aligns with what federal law prescribes. What's more important, however, is our commitment to ensuring that students with disabilities can have the highest quality of life possible and access the same opportunities as their peers."