Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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.
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff cannot ask about the person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. As a professional courtesy and to avoid confusion, faculty and staff may be informed if a student intends to bring a service animal on campus.
Assistance Animals (HUD — Fair Housing Act)
Assistance animals are (1) animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or (2) animals that provide emotional support which alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Some, but not all, animals that assist persons with disabilities are professionally trained. Other assistance animals are trained by the owners. In some cases, no special training is required. The question is whether the animal performs the assistance or provides the benefit needed as a reasonable accommodation by the person with the disability. Unlike a service animal, an assistance animal does not assist a person with a disability with activities of daily living, nor does it accompany a person with a disability at all times. Assistance animals may be considered for access to university housing; however, they are not permitted in other areas of the university (e.g., libraries, academic buildings, classrooms, labs, the Student Center, etc.).
Assistance animals need not be limited to dogs so long as they:
- Do not pose a health or safety risk to others
- Would not cause substantial physical damage to the property of others
- Would not fundamentally alter the nature of the provider's operations
SDS will review requests for assistance animals in university housing submitted through the Request for Special Housing Accommodations Form.