Service & Emotional Support Animals

Service animals and emotional support animals are two very different categories. Service animals are trained to perform a task or actively provide a service to an individual for a disability. They are often thought of as “seeing-eye dogs,” but can perform a variety of tasks. Emotional support animals have not been trained, but provide comfort just by being with the person. As they are quite different, they are treated differently on campus.

Service Animals
The university recognizes “Service Animals” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAA).  Pursuant to that law, a service animal is defined as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

UM-Flint shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability. Other requirements which apply to service animals shall also apply to miniature horses.

In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, UM-Flint shall consider:

  • The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features
  • Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse
  • Whether the miniature horse is housebroken
  • Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation

Students with a disability who wish to utilize a service animal in a classroom are encouraged but not required to register with DASS. Students are encouraged to register with DASS for access to resources, information, and advocacy around a range of disability-related dynamics, including service animals. Registration is required for any student who wishes to use a miniature horse in University facilities.

General Requirements
Service animals on campus must comply with all state and local licensure and vaccination requirements.

The care and supervision of a service animal is the responsibility of the individual who uses the animal’s service. The individual must maintain control of the animal at all times. The individual using the animal’s service is responsible for ensuring the cleanup of all animal waste and for any damage caused by the animal. University officials and staff may designate animal toileting areas.

Clarifying Animal Status
Service animals are permitted in all public facilities on campus in accordance with this Policy. University employees should not question an individual about an accompanying service animal if the individual’s disability is readily apparent and the function of the accompanying animal is clear.

In the unusual circumstance when an inquiry must be made to determine whether an animal is a service animal, a University employee may only ask two questions:

  1. Whether the animal is required because of a disability
  2. What work or task the animal is trained to perform

University employees shall not ask any questions about the individual’s disability, but can make a determination if the response to question two describes a service animal, or emotional support animal. If the employee has just cause to believe the animal is not a service animal, they can ask the individual to remove the animal from campus and return at their earliest convenience.

Although a service animal may sometimes be identified by an identification card, harness, cape, or backpack, such identifiers are not required and should not be requested or demanded for any service animal on campus. There is no certification for service animals. Several web sites exist that will certify any animal for a fee. These sites are not valid and should be avoided.

Service Animal Behavior
A service animal may be removed from university facilities or grounds if disruptive (e.g., barking, wandering, displaying aggressive behavior) and the behavior is outside the duties of the service animal. Ill, unhygienic, and/or unsanitary service animals are not permitted in public campus areas. The individual responsible for such an animal may be required to remove the animal.

Restricted Areas
The university may prohibit the use of service animals in certain locations due to health or safety restrictions, where service animals may be in danger, or where their use may compromise the integrity of research.

Exceptions to restricted areas may be granted on a case-by-case basis by contacting DASS. In making its decision, DASS will consult with the appropriate department and/or laboratory representative regarding the nature of the restricted area and any ongoing research.

Interacting with Service Animals
Service animals work and perform tasks and are not pets. Accordingly, DASS recommends that members of the university community adhere to the following best practices when interacting with service animals:

  • Do not touch or feed a service animal unless invited to do so;
  • Do not deliberately distract or startle a service animal, and,
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate a service animal from the individual using the animal’s service.

Emotional Support Animals
University Housing policy allows Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) to live with students in their on-campus residence, upon approval by DASS, in accordance with University Housing’s Emotional Support/Therapy Animal Policy. All animal handlers must be familiar with, and abide by, this Policy.

ESA Requirements
When reviewing student requests for an ESA, the following objectives may be taken into consideration. The student may be asked to remove the ESA from campus if any of these objectives are violated at any time.

  1. Generally, students may only apply to have one Emotional Support Animal on campus
  2. The animal’s vaccinations must be up-to-date, and the animal must be in good health. Current veterinary documentation must be provided and updated as necessary.
  3. Very young animals are not appropriate to have in Residence Hall settings for a variety of reasons. Generally, the animal must be 12 months of age or older.
  4. The animal does not pose any health risks or safety concerns regarding containment that cannot be sufficiently mitigated for inclusion in the communal living setting.
  5. The animal does not pose, and has not posed in the past, a direct threat to the individual or others such as demonstrating aggressive behavior or injuring the individual or others.
  6. The size of the animal must be appropriate for the size of the assigned room.
  7. The animal must be housebroken and able to live with others in a reasonable manner.
  8. The animals’ presence should not force another individual out of housing (e.g. serious allergies).
  9. The animals’ presence should not violate individuals’ right to a quiet and peaceful environment.
  10. The animal has not caused, or may not cause, excessive damage to residential spaces beyond reasonable wear and tear.
  11. Emotional Support Animals may be considered for access to university residential spaces and designated areas outside for relief. The animal must be caged when the student is not in the room, and accompany the student if they leave campus overnight.
  12. The Emotional Support Animal is not permitted in any other areas of the college (e.g. libraries, academic buildings, classrooms, labs, recreation center, etc.).

Documentation for Requesting an ESA
Students must provide medical documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other relevant and qualified mental health professional who is familiar with the individual’s disability and the necessity for the requested accommodation. This documentation must include:

  1. Verification of the student’s disability and length of time the student has been in treatment.
  2. Documented history of effectiveness of animal therapy as prescribed to the student (preferably for six months or longer), as well as how animal therapy relates to the student’s ongoing treatment plan.
  3. How the ESA relates to the ability of the student to use and gain benefit from college housing.
  4. Additional documentation from the animal’s veterinarian of up-to-date vaccinations and licensed, where necessary, will be required. To request this form, please contact DASS.

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 animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA 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 for the need of an emotional support animal. Students wishing to request an emotional support animal should work with their mental health provider to secure the appropriate documentation