ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) - A federal lawsuit filed after Grand Valley State University told a student she could not keep a guinea pig in her dorm room has been settled for $40,000.
Kendra Velzen and the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan filed the federal lawsuit in March 2012, alleging GVSU violated federal housing rules by denying her the right to keep her guinea pig Blanca in her dorm room.
Velzen was a GVSU sophomore living at the "pet free" Calder Residents dorm at the time she filed suit for four counts of discrimination. She has a heart condition that requires a pace-maker and severe depression for which she takes medication, according to the lawsuit. She said her request for a service animal exception to the housing rule was denied despite the fact that her medical provider had given her a letter outlining the need for a support animal. GVSU cited the Americans With Disabilities Act as reason for the denial, saying a guinea pig is not a trained service animal.
In January, both sides reached a settlement of the lawsuit, which 24 Hour News 8 obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
The settlement requires Grand Valley State University to pay Velzen, the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan and their attorney $40,000.
Velzen will be paid a portion of a $40,000 settlement, though the suit dies not specify how that money will be divided.
Also under the settlement, if Velzen chooses to live on campus and requests to live with a guinea pig or another animal similar in size or nature, the request will be approved by the University.
GVSU also agreed to work with the Fair Housing Center to create a "Support Animal Accommodation Policy" within 90 days of the settlement and train GVSU staff within 90 days of that policy being created.
As part of the settlement, Velzen and the Fair Housing Center agree to drop the lawsuit and a complaint filed with the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.
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