Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support to individuals with mental health conditions or emotional disorders. Unlike service animals, ESAs do not require specific training for task performance. They are primarily prescribed by mental health professionals to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric conditions. ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in the United States, which grants individuals the right to keep them in housing units that otherwise have pet restrictions. However, ESAs do not have the same level of public access rights as service animals.

ESA in Housing Requirements

A student desiring use of an ESA in university housing must identify and register with DASS before housing for the animal is needed, and provide the following documentation:

  • The student’s treating professional completes the ESA Disability Verification Form (or equivalent information)
    • DASS reserves the right to request additional clarification or documentation to substantiate a disability and/or need for the accommodation.
    • DASS will validate the need for approved accommodations and work with the resident and campus officials to facilitate a supportive network.
    • UM-Flint reserves the right to request additional clarification or documentation to ensure the animal is suitable for university housing. This may include but not be limited to situations that involve animals under 12 months of age, animals that are considered unique (i.e. not a cat or dog), or animals that are suspected of being a health or safety risk to others.
      • For unique animals (i.e. not a cat or dog), the student must demonstrate a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal. Residents with unique animals should also be prepared to provide the following additional information from their treating professional:
        • The date of the last consultation with the individual
        • Any unique circumstances justifying the student’s need for the particular animal (if already owned or identified by the individual) or particular type of animal, and
        • Whether the treating professional has reliable information about the animal or whether they specifically recommended this type of animal.
    • UM-Flint may deny a request for an ESA in housing if the presence of the animal:
      • Poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others
      • Would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others
      • Would pose an undue financial and administrative burden or
      • Would fundamentally alter the nature of housing operations
    • The University considers the following factors in determining whether the ESA is suitable for university housing:
      • Whether the animal’s presence would otherwise violate individuals’ right to peace and quiet enjoyment of their dwelling.
      • Whether the animal is housebroken and able to live with others in a reasonable manner.
      • Whether the animal’s vaccinations are up to date.
      • Whether the animal poses or has posed in the past a direct threat to the individual or others, such as injuring or acting aggressively.
      • Whether the animal is likely to cause or has caused excessive damage to housing beyond reasonable wear and tear.
  • Once an assistance animal has been approved by DASS, the student must meet Housing and Residential Life to discuss guidelines for residing in university housing with an animal.

Service and Emotional Support Animal Certification

No certification of an animal’s status as a service or emotional support animal is currently in existence. There are individuals and organizations that sell service and emotional support animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA or Fair Housing Act and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that an animal is a service or emotional support animal. As such, UM-Flint will not accept documentation from these sites as evidence of the need for an emotional support animal. Students wishing to request an emotional support animal should work with their mental health provider to secure the appropriate documentation.