Epileptic boy allowed service dog at school

District originally denied permission for service dog

By Carlos Suarez - Anchor/Reporter

SUNRISE, Fla. - With his best friend at his side, and a kiss from his mom, 5-year-old Anthony Marshante is ready to take on the world.

The little guy is starting kindergarten tomorrow and by his side will be his service dog, Stevie.

"I'm very very happy because I thought he wasn't going to be able to go to school on Monday because they didn't accept the dog," said Monica Alboniga, Marshante's mom.

Up until yesterday, the family wasn't sure if Marshante would be in class come the first day of school at Nob Hill Elementary because of a dispute with the school district over the service dog.

"He's my second son because he loves Anthony, and he's very attentive for him," said Alboniga of her son's dog.

The district originally asked the family for proof of liability insurance for the dog, coverage the family and Stevie's trainer said wasn't needed for a service animal.

"This was nonsense because I've been doing dealing with service dogs for 13 years and I've never been asked for any kind of service dog insurance, and we've been in school together and everywhere," said Traci Dulniak, service dog trainer.

Marshante has cerebral palsy and has been with Stevie since January when a doctor said it would help with his seizures.
The 2-year-old dog alerts his family when Marshante is having an episode. He also carries with him instructions on how to help.

It's a kind of relationship Stevie's trainer says goes beyond the home.

"There's a bonding process that goes on with service animals and the dog gets to understand how Anthony is, how he behaves and smells, and he's able to react to these things to tell his mother that there is a problem," said Dulniak.

The district called the family Saturday, made no mention of the insurance, but said the dog would be allowed in the classroom.

That being said, the family could be facing another problem once the bell rings Monday.

The district said the dog needs a handler and that it can't be a district employee.

Marshante's mom and Stevie's trainer have volunteered, but both would need to undergo a lengthy background screening.

Alboniga said Marshante will most likely be present at school Monday, but she won't let him stay unless the dog is with him.

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