- What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
- How can a student request to have an ESA in on-campus housing?
- Is an ESA the same as a Service Animal?
- What is the difference between a Service Animal and an ESA?
- Can I take my ESA to class?
- Can I bring my ESA to campus while waiting for approval from DR?
- Do I need an ESA Certificate to bring my animal on campus?
- What type of documentation do I need?
- How long does it take to receive approval for an ESA?
- What type of animal can be an ESA?
- The ESA Approval Process
An ESA is an animal that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. For example, an emotional support to an individual that has a mental health disorder.
To request to have an ESA in on-campus housing, a student must complete the accommodation request process with Disability Resources (DR). The student must have a recognized disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and show that the request for an ESA is a reasonable accommodation that is directly related to their disability needs.
- Documentation from a qualified evaluator to whom a student has an established relationship. (An evaluator that the student has only met with once or twice should not complete forms).
- Documentation should articulate the need for the ESA based upon the student’s medical and/or mental health condition.
*Documentation must indicate how the ESA alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.
No. While ESAs are often used as part of a medical treatment plan, they are not considered Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, they are viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in those housing communities that have a “no pets” rule.
Service animals are defined as dogs (or miniature horses, in limited situations) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task a service animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability. Service animals may accompany persons with disabilities into places that the public normally goes.
An ESA generally provides assistance and/or emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. While dogs are the most common type of ESA, other animals can also be ESAs. The animal need not be specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who has a mental health or medical disability. Unlike a service animal, an ESA is not granted access to all places of public accommodation. As noted above, under the FHA, an ESA is viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” in a housing unit.
Additional information can be found on the Service Animal resource page by the Office of Risk, Ethics and Compliance.
ESAs are generally only allowed in the dwelling (housing environment) of students and places that any animal is allowed in public. ESAs are typically not allowed in other campus buildings, including classroom buildings, the MSC and the Library. If you have specific questions about where as ESA is permitted in the housing environment, please consult with Residence Life.
ESAs should not be brought into on-campus housing until approved by both Disability Resources and Residence Life.
Disability Resources discourages paying individuals found on websites for certificates or template letters. As per the guidance document by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
“Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for assistance animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee.
**In HUD’s experience, such documentation from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal”.
“Reasonably supporting information often consists of information from a licensed health care professional – e.g., physician, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse – general to the condition but specific as to the individual with a disability and the assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the animal. A relationship or connection between the disability and the need for the assistance animal must be provided.” (hud.gov).
It may take up to 2-3 weeks for the information to be reviewed and accommodations to be put in place. For more information about the review process or the type of information to submit, please visit our guidelines for documentation.
“ESA types are typically animals commonly kept in households. Examples include but are not limited a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home” (hud.gov).
Step 2: Request and documentation is reviewed by DR staff and approval is determined
Step 3: If approved, student meets with Access Coordinator and housing accommodation approval form is sent to Residence Life
Step 4: Residence Life will contact the student to schedule an appointment to review policies and review appropriate documentation (i.e. agreements, rights/responsibilities, and licensing/vaccination records as appropriate).
Step 5: Student can bring animal into on-campus housing
**Please note that if an ESA request is not approved, DR staff will contact the student to request additional documentation and/or provide rationale.