Definition of a Service Animal

According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

The updated DOJ definition clearly states that other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for purposes of this definition. Under these regulations, only dogs are service animal under ADA Titles II and III.

The regulations go into some detail regarding the various kinds of work that service animals (dogs) can perform for individuals. These tasks can include physical, sensory, psychiatric or intellectual tasks or those that will assist individuals with a mental disability. According to DOJ guidance, service animals are “working animals” not household pets and dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

Please visit Service Animals on the ADA website for more information.

Requirements for Service Animals and Their Handlers

The student will verify that a service animal is required because of a disability and that the dog has been trained to perform specific disability related tasks.

Service animals are:

  • Dogs
  • Any breed and any size of dog
  • Trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability

Service animals are not:

  • Required to be certified or go through a professional training program
  • Required to wear a vest or other ID that indicates they’re a service dog
  • Emotional support or comfort dogs, because providing emotional support or comfort is not a task related to a person’s disability

Emotional Support Animals

If the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, it is not a service animal under the ADA. But if the dog is trained to perform a task related to a person’s disability, it is a service animal under the ADA. For example, if the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, the dog is a service animal.

An emotional support/comfort/therapy animal (ESA) is any animal that provides emotional support, well-being, or companionship that help symptoms of a person’s disability, such as anxiety or depression. The ESA is not necessarily individually trained. Instead, it offers support just by being present for the person with a disability.

We use the term “assistance animal” to mean both service animals and emotional support/comfort/therapy animals.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Documentation Policy

Service Animal Versus Assistance Animal

Statement issued on April 25, 2013 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) amendments to its regulations’ for Titles II and III of the ADA limit the definition of “service animal” under the ADA to include only dogs, and further define “service animal” to exclude emotional support animals. This definition, however, does not limit housing providers’ obligations to make reasonable accommodations for assistance animals under the FHAct or Section 504.

Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal, under both the FHAct and Section 504. In situations where the ADA and the FHAct/Section 504 apply simultaneously (e.g., a public housing agency, sales or leasing offices, or housing associated with a university or other place of education), housing providers must meet their obligations under both the reasonable accommodation standard of the FHAct/Section 504 and the service animal provisions of the ADA.

Service Animal

  • ADA
  • Excludes emotional support
  • All-campus
  • Access
  • Automatically allowed
  • Dogs

Emotional Support Animal

  • FHA
  • Includes emotional support
  • Housing only
  • Reasonable accommodation
  • Approval needed
  • All animals

Types of Animals That Can Be Assistance Animals

Only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals.

Any animal “commonly kept in households” can be an emotional support animal or ESA. This includes: dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, other rodents, fish, turtles, or other small, domesticated animals traditionally kept as pets.

  • Reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, kangaroos, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered “common household animals.”

If your emotional support animal is not one that is commonly kept in households, your housing provider may still need to grant your reasonable accommodation request if you can demonstrate the disability-related need for the specific type of animal. This is best done through documentation from your healthcare professional prescribing the specific type of animal you need and explaining why you need it.

Residential Students

  • The Director of Residence Life will make on campus housing assignments in consultation with the student and the Director of Accessibility & Disability Services.
  • The service animal must be in good health as verified annually by a licensed veterinarian.
  • A roommate must be found who will consent to living with the animal.

Unruly or disruptive behavior that interferes with the educational environment or housing community may result in limited use of the animal.

A service animal can be excluded from any ADA Title II or III public service or accommodation if any of the following situations exist:

  1. The dog is out of control and the handler cannot get the animal under control; or
  2. The dog is not housebroken.

If one or both of these situations occur, the handler can be asked to remove the dog, but the individual with disability must still be welcome to participate in the service or accommodation without the dog.