Service dog running to be named America’s Top Dog

Local News

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Service animals help their owners get through everyday life.

One in particular is breaking more barriers on the University of Illinois campus, and now he is in the running to be America’s Top Dog. Service Dog Sampson goes everywhere with Joey Ramp.

“There’s so much involved with my injuries,” Joey Ramp, a UI student, explained. “I have chronic pain. I have mobility issues, nerve damage down my left leg. Sometimes my brain says I took a step, and my leg doesn’t get the message, so I’m still going and my leg gives out, so he helps me. I can brace off him. If I’m on the floor, I can brace and he can help me up. 

But even with other service dogs on campus, there’s still places they can’t go.

“When I was coming here they said, ‘You’ll have to change your major,'” Ramp said. “You can never go into neuroscience because you can’t have a service dog in a chemistry lab.”

The only research lab they’re allowed into is Dr. Justin Rhodes’ at the Beckman Institute.

“Nationwide, students are being denied access to any and all laboratories,” Ramp went on to say. “This is including chemistry laboratories, just for coursework.”

She said there’s no scientific evidence a service dog would have an effect on a lab animal.

“I’m 54 years old,” she said. “I’ve lived a lot of life, and for a lot of students, they are 18, 19, 20, 21 years old, and when it comes to professors or administrators when they say no, they go, ‘Oh, okay well then I just can’t do that,’ so that’s why we decided to run this study, because this affects students nationwide.”

She’s working on the study with Dr. Rhodes.

“One of the best educational opportunities you can get on campus is actually joining a lab and getting hands-on experience working in a lab like we have here,” Dr. Rhodes explained.

They presented their research idea to the Illinois Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee for approval but have been denied twice. Both Ramp and Dr. Rhodes said they are committed and will try again.

“There’s so much wrong with that, and, for me, because it’s so wrong, I just have to do the right thing,” Ramp said. “That’s it.”

To try to open doors for other students who are being told no.

Although they said they can’t comment on specific proposals, UI officials say the proposed study must have a strong scientific rationale, must be designed to protect the welfare of the people and animals in the study, must not duplicate existing research and it must be designed in a way likely to produce data which are useful.

Sampson is one of 21 dogs in the running to be named America’s Top Dog.

You can vote for him here: www.HeroDogAwards.org

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